In 2007 I went on a month-long road rally across the US, Mexico, and most of Central America using waste grease and biodiesel. Pictures and descriptions from our visits to sustainable biodiesel producers along the way can be found here. One of my fellow travelers was Bjorn Kruse, the advanced vehicle specialist for the Norwegian environmental non-profit organization “Zero”. Bjornar decided to organize a shorter rally for high tech Zero Emission Vehicles in Norway. Ford Motor Company and the Hynor Group sponsored myself and race car driver Leilani Munter and provided us with a Hydrogen fuel cell Ford Focus, and on May 10th we were in Oslo and ready to go. Unfortunately the vehicle had been damaged in transport and we went to sleep thinking that we were out of the rally.
Twenty minutes before the start our car arrived and we were off. At one of the first stops we were greeted by a number of car fanatics with their classic vehicles and replicas like the one shown here of the first electric vehicle.
During down time we also checked out some of the other vehicles in the rally like the EV called the Buddy made by a Norwegian company, and this electric-pedal car produced in Germany.
The rally was designed to test both the drivers and the vehicles, but proving that these cleaner technologies can be as fun and high performing as conventional cars was a key goal.
Unfortunately the drive shaft that was broken in transport and only partially fixed, failed during the slalom course, taking us out of the competition.
Fortunately the mechanics were able to patch it up again enough so that we could “limp” to the finish line. The bright side was that on day three, because we were no longer competing, we were able to have Sabine Flanz, the head Research Engineer, for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology for Ford in Europe, ride with us which gave us a lot of time to discuss the ins and outs of fuel cell technology, H fuel cells versus EVs, etc. While the EVs could charge up anywhere they could plug in an extension cord, their range was quite limited and charging requires several hours, so the H fuel cell cars had a huge advantage with range and speed of re-fueling (about the same as refueling a conventional car). The downside is of course the need for specialized H production, distribution, and refueling infrastructure. In Norway the grid is 100% renewable, so the H was produced from green electricity.