While plug-in electric vehicles are the center of much hype, they aren’t the only type of newfangled, potentially sustainable vehicle that the world’s brightest minds have set their sights on. Fuel cell electric vehicles also use electricity, but instead of using a battery, they produce electricity internally using a hydrogen fuel cell. While these kinds of vehicles have been around for a while, the technology has faced plenty of challenges and hurdles—namely inefficiency and range anxiety.
However, a team of students at the Netherland’s Delft University of Technology recently took a big step for hydrogen cars—and, simultaneously, broke the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance driven on full tanks of hydrogen fuel. On Sunday, June 25, the student team drove their hydrogen-fueled Eco-Runner XIII for 2,488.4 kilometers (1,546.2 miles) over the course of three days on just one kilogram of hydrogen fuel—that’s about the distance between Boston and Miami. The student crew drove the 71.5 hours in rotating shifts of two hours, only stopping to switch out drivers.
The previous record of 2,056 kilometers (1,277 miles) was set only last May by ARM Engineering’s electric Renault Zoe, which operates using a methanol fuel cell.
The impressive feat took place at Germany’s Immendigen track. The record-breaking vehicle is the thirteenth iteration of the Eco-Runner, the first of which was revealed in 2005. The scientists first exhibited the final design of the Eco-Runner XIII in May, touting the development as possibly the most efficient hydrogen car yet. The three-wheeled, cloud-shaped vehicle utilizes carbon fiber instead of steel for parts such as push rods in the steering system, the hull of the vehicle, and suspension beams. Additionally, the team took extra care to factor in energy efficiency in terms of energy losses—especially during the conversion of hydrogen to electricity, and then electricity to kinetic energy. To do so, the team used a “brand-new” fuel cell.
All in all, the 72 kilogram (158 pound) car can drive around 45 kilometers per hour (27 miles per hour). While this one-person, funky-shaped, car might not be road-trip ready, the team hopes their developments can keep pushing the clean technology closer to the mainstream. Around 56,000 hydrogen cars were sold worldwide in 2022 according to one report, and the market for such vehicles is slated to hit $17.88 billion by 2029.
For those who are intrigued by hydrogen vehicles and live in the Netherlands, you’re in luck—the first hydrogen energy refueling hub was just unveiled outside of Amsterdam.
“Electric cars are also part of the solution for sustainable mobility, but the electricity grid is already filling up,” Eline Schwietert, the Delft team’s press contact, said in a recent statement. “Electrifying the whole world is not an option. Hydrogen and electric cars go hand in hand. There is not one big winner.”