On two consecutive cold winter weekends early 2019, we have performed a winter practice test with our Hyundai Nexo fuel cell electric vehicle against the well-known battery-electric car pioneer Tesla S: for an inhabitant of Munich and its surroundings the test track from Munich to St. Moritz in Switzerland, more precisely Grasbrunn, to Silvaplana in the Upper Engadine is quite common for a weekend skiing trip.
The track length was 356 km one way. There was a hydrogen refueling option after 158 km in Innsbruck as well as a charging facility for the Tesla S in form of several superchargers. While the Tesla could (and had to) find charging options in the Upper Engadin, the Nexo did not have this option and had to come from Innsbruck to Silvaplana and back to Innsbruck (400 km), with another 80 km of shuttles between the ski resorts in the Engadin over the weekend.
The result was stunning – the low temperatures of down to -11 ° C left a lasting impression on the Tesla: the real-world range shrinked to between 275 km uphill and 328 downhill, from an expected 450km. The Hyundai Nexo, however, responded to the low temperatures and even heavy snowfall on the outward journey with just moderate range losses, managed the almost 500 km from Innsbruck to Silvaplana and back to Innsbruck with 80 km of commuting in the Engadine without major challenges.
Our conclusion on the Tesla S 90D in winter practice test: “38% less range in winter”
- The Tesla S 90D loses up to 40% of its range on winter journeys, making it more expensive and less suitable for long-distance trips than petrol, diesel and hydrogen vehicles
- So far the weaknesses of Li-Ion battery technology at low temperatures cannot be compensated by enough battery capacity at present. We assume that rather 130 – 150 kWh battery capacity would be needed to catch up with the Nexo in the winter.
- A larger battery capacity would, however, need more heating at low ambient temperature and the consumption of the Tesla would go up again with an increase in battery capacity as we expect.
- The high vehicle weight due to large batteries perverts the idea of long-distance capability. On country roads, on the highway and even more when driving uphill, the extra weight of the battery leads to higher consumption and thus, to range loss, since the recuperation capabilities are limited and the battery must be heated.
- The strong range dependence of temperature and the struggle for “expensive” charging in the public space hardly met our premium expectation of a Tesla Model S.
- With empty battery one gives up to use the impressive acceleration performance and rather stay behind some slower Diesel compact car. We now understand why we sometimes see battery vehicles creeping on the right lane with a speed of 80 km on Sunday evenings.
Our conclusion from the winter test with the Hyundai Nexo and the Tesla Model S90: “Hydrogen can replace diesel, batteries have a long way to go”
- The winter capability of fuel cell vehicles allows us to replace diesel and gasoline vehicles today, every new H2 filling station makes a world without gasoline and diesel come closer.
- Performance and range remain virtually unaffected even in severe frost and snowfall. The practical range is above 500 km, even in the high winter with a payload of 300 kg.
The space and the flexible interior of the Nexo allow you to carry luggage and skis for a one-week ski holiday with at least 4 people, a (not yet officially available) roof rack would increase the freedom.
- The climbing ability of the Nexo on snowy mountain roads has surprised. The chains were never required, road handling and suspension design provide safety and comfort, the electric drive smoothness is a compelling experience. The technical equipment is advanced, the lane departure warning, however, cannot yet compete with the Tesla autopilot on highways.
- Refueling requires planning – the use of the only hydrogen stations on the way from Munich to the Upper Engadine is mandatory. An additional hydrogen station in the Engadine would significantly increase flexibility. In addition, in the Premium village of St. Moritz, calling itself “Top of the World” today’s diesel exhaust odor clouds the winter air. It would suit St. Moritz better to switch to a whole fleet of emission-free vehicles with fuel cells and batteries. Fuel cell vehicles such as the Nexo could alleviate the charging problem that becomes more severe with a growing number of battery vehicles every month.
- The hydrogen refueling process itself is quick and uncomplicated, the slightly off-center location of the hydrogen pump in Innsbruck is pleasant because it keeps your hands clean and lets you escape from the smell of diesel that you have at the ordinary diesel pumps nearby. You feel preferred as a hydrogen customer.
- The fuel costs for our trip to the Engadine amounted to 10 € / 100km and are similar to gasoline and diesel, whereas the Tesla may cost you up to 15 € / 100k