A Tesla Model S that runs on hydrogen fuel cells? Dutch firm claims it built one

Dutch "Hesla," a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Tesla Model S

Dutch “Hesla,” a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Tesla Model S

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Tesla has never built anything but battery-electric cars. Now a Dutch gasoline company believes it’s improved upon the Silicon Valley automaker’s design with a hydrogen fuel cell—so much so that it wants to sell its solution to the general public.

The Holthausen Group, a Dutch gasoline supplier, claims it built a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Model S with a range of 620 miles.

The powertrain “hack,” as the company described it, does not compromise interior space since the hydrogen tanks reside in “cavities.”

DON’T MISS: Energy use for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles: higher than electrics, even hybrids (analysis)

Appropriately called a “Hesla,” the fuel cell-powered Model S is a wacky creation, but Holthausen Group is confident that its system offers a huge advantage: doubling the rated all-electric driving range of even the best Model S.

Though it did not disclose production plans or a timeframe, Holland’s RTV NOORD (via Electrek) reported last week the gasoline company said the conversion would cost around 50,000 euros, or about $58,000 at current exchange rates.

The company added it has already received requests for more information on the hydrogen-powered Model S, both domestically in the Netherlands and from abroad.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, Santa Barbara, CA, March 2017

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, Santa Barbara, CA, March 2017

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Tesla itself hasn’t commented on the Dutch firm’s creation.

Fuel cells operate by feeding pure hydrogen into what’s called the “stack,” where hydrogen combines with oxygen from the air to form water and give off electricity.

That electricity, usually with a battery pack to buffer extreme power demands, drives the wheels that move the car through an electric motor similar to that of an electric car.

READ THIS: All the challenges for hydrogen fuel-cell cars laid out

A Toyota Mirai holds about 5 kg of hydrogen in large, very high-pressure tanks, giving it a range of more than 300 miles. There’s no ability to plug the car in to recharge.

Drivers refill their tanks with pressurized hydrogen in a process similar to filling up with gasoline or diesel fuel, but the infrastructure poses a unique challenge.

Hydrogen cannot be stored as easily as gasoline or diesel, which requires investments in entirely new fueling infrastructure, transportation, storage, and other areas.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, Santa Barbara, CA, March 2017

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, Santa Barbara, CA, March 2017

Enlarge Photo

Those challenges haven’t stopped a few automakers from forging ahead, though. Japanese companies formed a hydrogen-fueling alliance earlier this year.

The alliance in Japan, called the Hydrogen Council, calls for 160 additional hydrogen fueling stations installed across Japan by 2020, and 40,000 fuel-cell vehicles on the roads that same year.

Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and other Japanese firms will all participate in the alliance and focus on their core competencies; infrastructure companies will tackle fuel stations, while automakers will promote the powertrain itself.

General Motors and Honda also partnered to manufacture fuel cells in Michigan for use in vehicles by 2020.

At Tesla, meanwhile, CEO Elon Musk’s remarks on what he calls “hydrogen fool cells” suggest it’s extremely unlikely hydrogen fuel cells would be part of the company’s future business.

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