For two days I was driving a rented Hyundai Tucson ix35 FCEV from Innsbruck to Amsterdam with a total distance of 1,099 kilometres (km). My motivation was to gain experience in pursuing a journey in a fuel-cell vehicle with a limited number of hydrogen refuelling stations along the way. The four stops were Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Duesseldorf and Helmond. Though Stuttgart and Karlsruhe are only 77 km apart one takes every gram of hydrogen on board one can get. The average range was 400 km; subject to Winter temperatures and driving style.
Beginning with a full tank of hydrogen in Innsbruck, a total amount of 11.14 kilograms (kg) of hydrogen were refuelled in Germany and The Netherlands. The service was good at all stations. At some stations the hydrogen was reformed from natural gas and stored at the premise. At other stations the hydrogen was produced by means of electrolysis with the necessary power derived from renewable energy sources. The picture (taken by Stefan) shows the hydrogen refuelling station at Helmond, The Netherlands; 135 km South of Amsterdam.
The 1st leg from Innsbruck to Stuttgart was mainly driven on country roads. Temperatures were largely below the freezing point and the winding roads in the mountains were decorated with snow-covered trees; like in a fairy tale. After the Austrian-German border it was another 193 km to the hydrogen refuelling station in Stuttgart but took 3 hours to drive as again country roads were chosen over motorways and a light foot on the accelerator to make sure to reach Stuttgart at all. Driving faster, such as on the German motorway, would have meant a higher and faster consumption of the energy available. There still needed to be enough reserve to get to Karlsruhe in case refuelling would not have worked in Stuttgart. As Stuttgart has one of the oldest hydrogen refuelling stations in Germany and it being quite a frequented one all went smooth.
The 2nd leg from Stuttgart to Karlsruhe was a short stretch on the German motorway but gave no opportunity to drive at a faster pace since the next (at that point in time operational) hydrogen refuelling station, in Duesseldorf, was estimated to be 414 km away from Stuttgart, which however turned out to be 442 km due to a number of detours to avoid traffic en route. Less the 77 km between Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, the remaining distance from Karlsruhe to Duesseldorf was still 365 km.
The 3rd leg from Karlsruhe to Duesseldorf began at 14:30 and ended at 19:45, more than five hours. This was on the one hand due to deliberately driving at prehistorically low speeds, allowing my soul to catch up with me every once in a while, and on the other hand additional unplanned mileage because of heavy traffic and necessary diversions due to accidents.
The 4th leg from Duesseldorf to Helmond was driven on the second day of the journey. Noticeably, after crossing the Dutch-German border the number of electric vehicles seen on the roads increased drastically compared to the entire rest of the journey, as well as a decent number of hybrids. Whereas from Innsbruck until the Dutch-German border I saw one Renault ZOE and one Tesla S, in The Netherlands there were electric or hybrid -BMW, -Mercedes, -Mitsubishi, -Nissan, -Opel, -Renault, -Tesla, -Toyota, -VW and -Volvo (compressed natural gas-cars not included here, such as for example one FIAT I saw). I mean: … fata morgana?
The final leg from Helmond to Amsterdam finished with a beautiful scenery with windmills and the Sun was shining. It was 14:15 in the afternoon; just under 31 hours after having left Innsbruck, of which the net driving time was 17 hours.
In conclusion I am thankful to the friendly people at the hydrogen refuelling stations met during the journey. Two thumbs up to the manufacturers of a comfortable and reliable fuel-cell vehicle. And sure I would seek to go on another hydrogen challenge; resources permitting.