Hyundai is one of the few carmakers in the transportation sector to have already made use of the fuel cell as a mass production feature in road transport. Its European subsidiary organized a several-day trip from Bergen in Norway to Bolzano in Italy to offer drivers from across the continent plenty of opportunities to test out the car even over longer distances. On June 12, 2016, nine Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell set out on a five-day journey to travel around 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles) from high up north in Europe to Italy. From time to time, they were accompanied by six other FCEVs, which joined the group for a short distance in Offenbach, Munich and Innsbruck. On behalf of H2-international, Mortimer Schulz took part in this unique pioneering event for which Hyundai did not only supply the cars, but also covered the costs of hotels and food and the travel expenses to get to the start of the journey and back home from the finish line.
Day 1 – Bergen, Norway
Our journey starts at 6 in the morning, after everyone arrived at their own pace the day before. Around 20 people (journalists, photographers, company representatives and Hyundai employees) get into the nine FCEVs and the two escort vehicles. I am one of them and I am getting ready as well. This fuel cell model is already familiar to me from earlier, shorter test drives, but such a long “hydrogen journey” is a new experience entirely – and a thrilling one at that.
The first part of the trip takes us mainly on the Fv 48 highway 101 kilometers (63 miles) in best weather and under the clear, blue sky typical of Scandinavia from Bergen to the Gjermundshamn harbor, along breathtaking hill formations and waterfalls. The speed limit in Norway is 80 kph (50 mph) on highways and 50 kph (31 mph) in towns and cities, which will surely up the mileage. But the available range shown on the gauge is shrinking faster with every kilometer I go. Either I’m driving more aggressively than I thought or the morning temperature of 10 °C (50 °F) has a negative impact on fuel consumption. Later in the day, a colleague from Hyundai recommends that I try out the E instead of the D mode (“lever to the left and then forward once”).
After 526 kilometers (327 miles) on the first day in about nine hours of driving (excluding breaks), I am pretty relaxed when I arrive at the hotel – all thanks to electric driving. As the driver’s seat in the ix35 Fuel Cell is somewhat raised and very comfortable and the running gear is well-adjusted to the point where you hardly notice the pavement, you get to enjoy a featherlight “hydrogen experience” and a view of the landscape through the large window panes. The instrument panel design is minimalistic and besides the typical car noises, you will rarely hear the fuel cell technology in action. From time to time, you may here a short whistling sound when steam is blown off.
Day 2 – Aalborg, Denmark
On the second day, we start driving at 8:26 in the morning. Today’s trip is going to be 453 kilometers (281 miles), via Aarhus, Kolding and Hamburg. First, we fill up the tank in Aarhus at a refueling station operated by H2 Logic (4.04 kg of H2). During a presentation by Hyundai Denmark in Kolding, representatives of the Danish hydrogen movement explain to us that Denmark has already seen the installation of nine H2 filling stations; two more are being built and will still go online this year.
After 453 kilometers, I refill 4.61 kg of hydrogen at the Vattenfall station in Hamburg Harbor City.
Day 3 – Hamburg, Germany
The consistent speed level of 110–120 kph (68–75 mph) leaves much time to discuss H2 transportation. My passenger today is a colleague from Hyundai, who directs my attention to the hydrogen sensor integrated into the car roof. And he explains to me the center console and the purpose of the energy flows shown live on screen. The display depicts how hydrogen is being fed into the fuel cell, which generates electricity for the 100 kW electric motor. Stepping on the brakes will feed electrical energy into the battery for when I feel like pressing down the accelerator pedal.
We arrive in Düsseldorf at the Air Liquide station on Höherweg after …
Day 4 – Düsseldorf, Germany
This day’s 628 kilometers (390 miles) will make for the longest part of our trip, with a stop at Hyundai in Offenbach and at a filling station in Geiselwind. Start is 8:23 in the morning – arrival in Munich-Unterhaching is scheduled for 7:40 in the evening.
In Offenbach …
I’m glad that late-evening refueling on Detmoldstrasse is done by the support team.
Day 5 – Munich, Germany
The 305 kilometers (190 miles) from Munich via Innsbruck to Bolzano comprise the final and the shortest of the five day trips. When travelling south, the terrain is becoming increasingly hilly, and after 162 kilometers (101 miles), we are off to another event in Innsbruck: the inauguration of the Green Energy Center Europe. After the obligatory photo op, we proceed to the third Austrian H2 station, which is located on Andechsstrasse in Innsbruck and is operated by Linde (but no refill for my car there). Afterward, we get on Brennerstrasse to drive the last 128 kilometers (80 miles) to our final destination.
It is the place where the Institute for Innovative Technologies (IIT, see Interview with Walter Huber from H2 South Tyrol) has set up a self-sufficient filling station at the highway exit Bolzano-South. Here, energy from a nearby hydropower plant provides the electrical energy for hydrogen electrolysis. The fuel is created and stored locally. Each day, five H2 buses manufactured by Van Hool and owned by the city of Bolzano are filled up at the station at 350 bar (around 5,000 psi).
A final presentation, an excellent lunch and a group photo round off these five incredible days – 2,316 kilometers (1,439 miles) in 30 hours and 41 minutes (without breaks). And what about the fuel? The 22.34 kilograms of hydrogen I filled up on my own plus the refueling in Munich and the fuel consumed to drive the last part of the trip add up to approximately 30 kilograms of hydrogen in five days.
Author: Mortimer Schulz is the founder and owner of solutions in energy e. U. based in Vienna. He is an independent consultant advising clients on renewable energies, energy storage and energy efficiency and answering questions about fuel cell financing. He has been an aficionado of H2 transport solutions for years.