The Smart Mobility Team from TÜV Rheinland also has a hydrogen car available. I had the opportunity to test the vehicle for a day to get an idea of the technology. In this blog post you can read about my experiences and why the fire department also showed a keen interest in this car.

Hydrogen car vs. electric car – what are the differences?

Hydrogen cars – also called fuel cell cars – are powered by a fuel cell with a hydrogen tank. Hydrogen and oxygen from the air react to form water. This process, also called “cold combustion,” releases heat and electrical energy, which drives the electric motor. Fuel cell cars also have a buffer battery that can be used as an intermediate storage unit for braking (recuperation energy) and to provide additional power during acceleration. Since it is not the main energy source, the buffer battery is of course smaller than in the electric car. In our case, it is a 13.8 kWh lithium-ion battery.

How does a hydrogen car drive?

Anyone who has ever driven an electric car will hardly notice a difference. Acceleration is also comparable, since hydrogen-powered cars are also driven by electric motors. 

Karte Wasserstoff Tankstellen Deutschland
Source: H2 Mobility hydrogen filling stations live map

How many hydrogen filling stations are there in Germany?

Germany currently has 88 hydrogen filling stations (as of September 2020). The main operator is H2 Mobility, a joint venture of gas producers Air Liquide and Linde, service station operators OMV, Shell and Total, and Daimler AG.

A look at the H2 Mobility map showing current and planned hydrogen filling stations reveals that the potential has not yet been exhausted.

By the way: TÜV Rheinland has inspected and accepted more than three quarters of all hydrogen filling stations and continues to be a testing service provider at H2 Mobility for the coming years.

How to refuel a hydrogen car

Refueling takes between 3 and 5 minutes – depending on the size of the tank. Similar to conventional filling stations, there is a nozzle, which is connected to the car and locked by a lever.

The customer then presses Start at the pump. The refueling process is initialized via an infrared connection between the car and the pump – and the hydrogen is filled into the tank at a pressure of 700 bar (also 350 bar for commercial vehicles).

The tank in our car has a capacity of 4.4 kilograms of hydrogen, which corresponds to a price of around 44 euros at the filling station. Incidentally, there might be a loud hissing noise at the end of the refueling process. When I heard it for the first time, it gave me a little scare.

Wasserstoff Auto wird betankt

To sum things up:

Anyone who has the opportunity to try out a hydrogen car should definitely do so. During my refueling stop at the airport, the local fire department also showed a keen interest in this technology. Of course, the primary concern for fire protection professionals is how to handle such a vehicle in the event of an accident. Our vehicle is therefore equipped with a so-called hazard map, which shows exactly which tank is located where and where high-pressure pipes and high-voltage lines have been laid.

In my field test, the car had a range of around 290 kilometers with a full hydrogen tank – plus an extra 40 kilometers when powered via battery. Of course, these figures will vary depending on driving style, temperatures and electrical equipment in use. More refueling stations would therefore be desirable. However, compared to other European countries, Germany is already well advanced in terms of hydrogen infrastructure. 

Would you like to learn more about hydrogen cars, technology and infrastructure? TÜV Rheinland’s experts are available to interested companies and government authorities, offering their specialist knowledge as well as training courses and workshops.


Jan Scholten

Jan Scholten


The idea of getting from A to B automatically in the future, without having to worry about the vehicle, inspires the Product Marketing Manager. That’s why he is professionally involved in automated driving via electric mobility – whether it’s e-scooters or urban mobility solutions in a smart city environment. These topics always become a highlight for Jan when they are presented in the form of videos.

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