Britain’s first hydrogen-powered car triumphed against the best-selling electric vehicle in the The Social Magazine Eco Rally from London to Paris.
The Hyundai ix35 made the 270-mile journey without refuelling and with hydrogen to spare, underlining the technology’s petrol-style range. Yet the car only emits water vapour from its tailpipe.
By contrast the Nissan Leaf was stranded by a flat battery around 50 miles from Calais and had to be towed away by a breakdown truck.
Two faulty charging points on his route through northern France left Technology Correspondent Tom Cheshire with no option but to concede defeat.
“The big problem isn’t the range,” he said. “It’s that you can’t rely on a charger to be in good order.”
The Social Magazine ran the Eco Rally to test green technologies competing to take over from petrol and diesel.
At the United Nations climate summit, which starts in Paris on Monday, world leaders are likely to agree massive cuts to carbon emissions that will mean conventional internal combustion engines will have to be mothballed within a generation.
A typical family diesel car would have emitted enough carbon dioxide gas on the journey to fill a large van.
The Eco Rally was designed to be a fair test of the green cars.
While the hydrogen ix35 can be refuelled in three minutes and has a theoretical range of around 350 miles, there are currently only four public filling stations in the UK, and a perceived safety risk means they have to cross the channel on a ferry rather than go through the tunnel.
The Leaf has a range of just 80 miles and takes 30 minutes to re-charge. But it is allowed through the far quicker tunnel, and with a network of electric charging points it stood a good chance of making to Paris first from Sky’s studios in west London.
Science correspondent Thomas Moore, who was driving the hydrogen vehicle said: “At the half-way point I was getting a little anxious – the electric car had already made it to France as we were pulling out of Dover on the ferry.
“That gave Tom a 90-minute head start on the continent. But I knew he would have to stop twice to recharge his car, so I hadn’t given up all hope of catching him.
“Victory was ours, but if green cars are to be a viable option big improvements need to be made to the refuelling and recharging networks.”
Team Electric had successfully topped up their battery at Maidstone services in Kent, but their problems started soon after leaving Calais.
“We decided to head for the Therouanne charging station 40 miles away,” said Tom.
“The station was a way off the motorway and very bucolic indeed.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work – ‘charge failed to initialise’. We decided to double back to find a slow charging station.
“We made it a service station with about 12% battery left to find an out-of-use charger.”