September 27, 2021

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Alternative engines: learn to drive with hydrogen

Status: 10/4/2021 4:55 PM

School cars driving traditionally have diesel engines. A company from Saarbrucken uses a hydrogen engine for its driving lessons. Technology can also be tricky for school children.

It reminds us a bit of a sauna leak when driving instructor Reuven Klein from Saarbrucken parked his new driving school car. Instead of exhaust fumes, a lot of steam comes out and a little bit of water drips. Along with Sven Schmidt, Klein has a real rarity at the start of the Fufu Driving School: a driving school car that does not run on diesel or petrol, but with hydrogen. “We are working closely with hydrogen vehicle manufacturers,” says Klein. “As far as we know, we might be the first driving school in the world to have modified such a vehicle.”

There are no really reliable numbers yet. The Federal Association of German Driving School Companies does not yet know of any hydrogen-powered school cars. But they support the progress from Saarbrucken. The driving school completely eliminates internal combustion engines and instead relies exclusively on bio-natural gas, electric motor and hydrogen. “This sustainable approach is very important to us, and someone should start with it,” Schmidt says.

The conversion is difficult

Fuel cell vehicles are still rare. For around 60k euros, voovoo drive bought one of the few models available – one Toyota Mirai. Indispensable for every driving school car: the pedals are on the passenger side so the teacher can intervene in an emergency. In the case of combustion engines the linkage usually connects the pedals. It is installed in the middle between the driver and passenger cabin.

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Problem: One of the three hydrogen tanks is there. In this case, some groundbreaking work was required. After a long search, they found a company in Germany that did the complicated installation of the pedals, Klein explains: “Fortunately, the company agreed to carry out this exciting experiment – and it worked. We now have one that works with a car cable for driving instruction.”

Quick acceleration

Driving school cars traditionally have a diesel engine. It’s sturdy, long-lasting, and suits students well when it comes to initially pairing. But there is change also happening in driving schools. Because the topic of sustainability for the target group – especially adolescents – is of great importance, as the Fridays for Future movement made clear. This zero-emissions hydrogen engine is well received by young people like Adrian Bredebusch.

Bredebusch also drove a diesel engine in the training area. As one of the first educated drivers, he is now learning to use the new hydrogen vehicle. Bredebusch describes the driving experience as a “fun glide”. But there are also drawbacks, because unlike internal combustion engines, which only develop full power with increased speed, fuel cells have full power from the start. “It’s accelerating very fast,” says the educated driver, “and you also don’t have any voice feedback about how fast you are driving. You have to keep looking at the speedometer.”

Like hybrid cars and electronic cars, the hydrogen car also has an automatic transmission. This is fun for novice drivers and may well look like it will prevail in the mid-term. The legislature has now recognized this as well. For a long time, testing was possible only with a classic transmission. “Fortunately, since April 1, there has also been the option to combine or add to this switch training in one form or another,” explains driving instructor Schmidt. This means that students can now take exams with automated vehicles without any restrictions.