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Meet the ‘Hesla,’ a modded Tesla Model S that runs on hydrogen fuel

A gas supplier company in the Netherlands has effectively doubled the range of the Tesla Model S by adding hydrogen power to the electric luxury sedan. Dubbed the “Hesla,” the modification adds a second charging supply to the existing electrical system, using a tank of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source.

Last week, the Holthausen Group announced that it had begun testing the prototype vehicle. With a fully charged battery and a tank of hydrogen, the Helsa can travel close to 620 miles — nearly twice the range of the stock Model S P100D.

The project was not endorsed or supported by Tesla in any way, so Holthausen had to acquire a second-hand Model S for its modifications. Max Holthausen, one of the engineers, said it was difficult to add a second power source to the existing Tesla electrical system, calling it “a big maze.” After some engineering trickery, the Hesla prototype can run on power from either the existing battery or the hydrogen-powered fuel cells.

Don’t plan on tricking out your Model S with a hydrogen option anytime soon, however. The conversion runs nearly $60,000, according to The Drive, so a hydrogen-supplemented P100D would set you back more than $200,000.

Then there’s the problem of filling up the tank. As Futurism notes, there are only 39 hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S., with the vast majority located in California. Although hydrogen fuel cells are currently prohibitively expensive, industry executives predict that hydrogen-powered vehicles will be as cheap as hybrids in the near future.

Other automakers expect hydrogen power to be a viable alternative as soon as the next decade, according to an Autocar report from the Tokyo motor show. “In the early 2020s we will launch the next generation hydrogen fuel stack technology, and that will provide a substantial move forward,” said Naomichi Hata of Toyota, makers of the hydrogen-powered Mirai. “As a result of these gains we expect — in Japan at least — the same car type to cost the same price whether it is a hybrid or powered by hydrogen.”

Hydrogen fuel has its pros and cons, but other automakers such as Honda, Hyundai, and GM are embracing the new technology in their upcoming models. Hydrogen may well provide an alternative to fossil fuels that can power a clean-energy revolution for our transportation needs.

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