The Guinness World Record for greatest distance travelled by a car on a single tank (1kg) of hydrogen fuel has been broken.
Students from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands drove 2,488 km (1,546 miles) on a single tank of hydrogen fuel in an Eco Runner, a concept car designed, built and driven by the students themselves. The attempt took three days, starting on 23 June 2023, with the car travelling at an average of 45 km (28 miles) an hour.
As commercial companies race to improve charging times for electric vehicles (EVs), hydrogen fuel cells could be part of the answer, presenting a fast alternative to refuelling. Given the number of players in the field, the Delft students have pulled off quite a coup in beating the market to set a new World Record for distance travelled.
The Eco Runner is in its thirteenth iteration since its first version in 2005. Its predecessors have previously broken records too. The original three-wheeled Eco1 set a record for driving 557 km (346 miles) on just one litre of petrol.
The ECO XIII resembles a 1950s-imagined spaceship, or perhaps a car version of a friendly ghost. With a carbon fiber hull, it is tiny, barely fitting a driver in its bubble-hooded structure. Its design is smaller, lighter, and more aerodynamic than previous incarnations. Priorities, according to the team, were “optimizing the car’s shape to decrease the aerodynamic drag and making a load-carrying structure that was as lightweight as possible without breaking.”
In addition to reducing resistance and drag, the student team, consisting of 23 people from 10 different disciplines, aimed to increase the car’s efficiency by optimising the power train with a new fuel cell to minimise the losses that occur when converting hydrogen to electricity and electricity to kinetic energy.
The World Record attempt took place at Germany’s Immendingen test track. The team website describes the nerve-wracking experience:
“We decided to drive with less [sic] drivers than originally planned. These six teammates drove more efficiently and were used to the track. This resulted in a faster lap time, while still maintaining the efficiency we strived for. After the shift change everybody stayed at the track and we nervously watched every lap. While we were counting down, the car needed to stop in the last lap. The pressure regulator had some difficulties, and it took some time to fix this. You can imagine how nervous we were… At 9 PM, the time arrived, the ECO XIII passed the 2056 KM!!”
After securing the record, the team celebrated briefly, before carrying on driving to use up the rest of the tank of fuel.