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Inside, the dashboard monitor gives live readings of hydrogen energy consumption, along with the electric power used. This Prius switches to electric power as you brake and stop, to allow the hydrogen energy to recharge momentarily. On the road, the car handles almost as smoothly as its conventional counterpart, with just a few quirks.
The loud, distinctive hum will sound familiar to anyone who’s driven a Prius, but the hydrogen version sounds a little less coarse than the gas-powered engine. Burned in a combustion engine, hydrogen gives less power than gasoline, so the car doesn’t accelerate with as much gusto as a Prius powered by fossil fuels. Even with the pedal to the floor, speeding up is gradual. Braking feels smooth, but the hydrogen Prius sputters and “putt-putts” slightly as it slows and stops.
Starting the car can be tricky for first-timers. With a foot on the brake, you insert the Prius’ rectangular chip into a dashboard slot and press a green “Start” button. Though the dashboard display lights up, the car doesn’t always power up the first time. It took one novice driver three tries to fire the hydrogen engine.
Drivers in Reykjavik are, for the most part, civilized and cautious, even when maneuvering stretch Hummers or Porsche Cayennes down the narrow streets of this compact capital. You don’t need to drive by any means, but if you have $300 to spare for the novelty of driving a hydrogen car, it’s worth the experience—at least until the Next Big Thing hits the road.
NOTE: Iceland Naturally provided airfare to Iceland and lodging in Reykjavik for our contributor Michael Kaminer. Photos by Michael Kaminer. All rights reserved.