Cars in the medium to long term will be powered by fuel cells. They will be emissions free and the fuel will be hydrogen. I have driven several prototypes and they will be the fuel and power source for our cars in the future, writes Padraic Deane.
Hydrogen is a volatile gas at room temperature, but when chilled to -253C and compressed, it makes the perfect fuel. Hydrogen’s greatest feature, as a fuel, is that it causes no pollution.
A hydrogen fuel cell works by combing hydrogen gas with atmospheric oxygen. The resulting chemical reaction generates electric power, and the only by-product it produces is clean water.
And I read somewhere that hydrogen is the most commonly found chemical element on our planet.
Right now, the problem is that while most vehicle manufacturers are well advanced in the development and safe use of fuel cell technology, the infrastructure for the storage and distribution of hydrogen is some way off.
If you consider the strength of the diesel in the European vehicle market, it will take a rapid descent from peak oil resulting in fast inflating diesel and petrol prices before the investment would be put in to a proper widespread hydrogen auto fuel network.
The testing will be done through fleets and utility companies in the short term with urban areas getting hydrogen outlets first.
Hyundai is first to mass produce fuel cell cars
A white Hyundai ix35 fuel cell vehicle rolled off the assembly line at the company’s manufacturing facility in South Korea recently. And so Hyundai claims the kudos of becoming the world’s first automaker to begin assembly-line production of zero-emissions, hydrogen-powered vehicles for fleet use.
The ix35 fuel cell vehicle, based on Hyundai’s popular ix35, C-segment SUV, exited the assembly line workers during a launch event attended by Hyundai top management and VIPs.
“With the ix35 fuel cell vehicle, Hyundai is leading the way into the zero-emissions future,” Hyundai Motor vice chairman Eok Jo Kim said “The ix35 fuel cell is the most eco-friendly vehicle in the auto industry and proves that hydrogen fuel cell technology in daily driving is no longer a dream.”
The ix35 fuel cell unveiled at the ceremony will be one of 17 destined for fleet customers in the cities of Copenhagen in Denmark and Skåne in Sweden. The municipality of Copenhagen, as part of its initiative to be carbon-free by 2025, will be supplied with 15 ix35 fuel cell vehicles for fleet use, according to an agreement that was announced in September 2012. Two ix35 fuel cell vehicles will be supplied to Skåne, Sweden.
Hyundai plans to build 1,000 ix35 fuel cell vehicles by 2015 for lease to public and private fleets, primarily in Europe, where the European Union has established a hydrogen road map and initiated construction of hydrogen fueling stations.
The strategy of leading automakers in Europe and the US is to supply hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and establish refuelling stations in order to prepare the market for mass production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
After 2015, with lowered vehicle production costs and further developed hydrogen infrastructure, Hyundai will begin manufacturing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for consumer retail sales.
Just last month, the ix35 fuel cell won the prestigious FuturAuto award at the Brussels Motor Show, celebrating its technical innovation.
The ix35 fuel cell is the halo vehicle in Hyundai’s Blue Drive sub-brand, the badge worn by Hyundai’s cleanest vehicles, including Sonata Hybrid, i20 Blue Drive and BlueOn, Hyundai’s battery-powered i10.
As governments around the world step up regulations to reduce carbon output and fossil fuel dependency, zero-emissions mobility solutions such as Hyundai’s ix35 fuel cell will become a driving force of change. The ix35 fuel cell aligns with the 2009 agreement by the European Union’s G8 countries to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and California’s zero emission vehicle regulations.
The ix35 fuel cell can be refuelled with hydrogen in only a few minutes. It accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 12.5 seconds, has a top speed of 160 km/h, and can travel 594 kilometers with a single charge.
The ix35 fuel cell is the result of 14 years and several hundred million euros of research by hundreds of engineers at Hyundai’s fuel cell R&D center in Mabuk, Korea. The car has logged more than two million miles of road tests in real-world conditions in Europe, Korea and the US.
The first ix35 fuel Ccell vehicle (pictured ) rolled off the assembly line and was displayed at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show earlier this week.