It’s finally happened: the world’s greatest section of tarmac, the northern loop of the Nurburgring, has descended into complete self-parody. For years now it has been used by car manufacturers as much as a marketing tool as a test track: it seems almost impossible for any even faintly sporting car to come to market without press shots of it at the ‘Ring to ram home its usually unworthy sporting credentials.
But last week’s news that Nissan has set the fastest lap at the Nurburgring using a fuel cell vehicle takes the entire box of biscuits. This fastest lap was recorded by a fuel cell powered X-Trail SUV and took two seconds less than 12 minutes to complete at an average speed of less than 65mph.
What is this staggeringly slow time meant to prove on a circuit whose defining feature is a triple digit number of corners through which it presumably doesn’t matter whether the car is powered by petrol, electricity or elephant dung? How much more impressive would it be if it had gone to a proving ground and covered a hundred miles in a hour, all in a straight line? Or two hundred miles at 80mph without running out of (hydrogen) gas?
These are the numbers we need to see from fuel cell cars before they can start to be seen as a credible replacement for existing technologies, not meaningless lap times from the most over-exposed race-track in the world.