Hyundai has unveiled a near-production preview of its next-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicle at a special event in Korea, while confirming plans for an expanded range of hybrid and electric vehicles.
The Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) displayed is so far only referred to by its ‘FE’ working title, and features the latest version of Hyundai’s SUV styling direction as seen on the compact Kona, along with a very Mercedes-inspired dual-screen instrument and infotainment display.
Under the bonnet the Hyundai FE runs a revised fuel cell stack from the earlier ix35 FCEV that generates electricity to power the electric motor from an onboard store of hydrogen gas, emitting water and warmth as its only waste products.
Full details of the vehicle’s technical specifications, projected on-sale date, and official name will be revealed at the FE’s official debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2018.
Along with the more advanced hydrogen fuel cell system, Hyundai will also kit out the FE with a range of semi-autonomous driving capabilities.
Hyundai also confirmed that the FE will become the first fuel cell-powered sold in Australia, joining a handful of company-owned demonstrators already operated by Hyundai and Toyota.
A lack of refuelling infrastructure will be the biggest drawback for a large-scale local launch, but that situation has the potential to change as government and private groups look to green transport solutions.
Some of the details that are known about the FE include its electric motor with 120kW of power and just under 400Nm of torque, delivered via the front wheels. Three hydrogen tanks in the rear of the car provide up to 580 kilometres of practical driving range, an impovement of approximately 150km compared with the ix35 FCEV.
Overseas, Hyundai became the first manufacturer to sell a fuel cell-powered car to the public, when it introduced the ix35 FCEV in select European markets in 2013, before adding Korea and the US to its sales footprint.
Speaking with TMR in Seoul, Dr Sae Hoon Kim, head of Hyundai’s fuel cell research division, admits that car was a “temporary” measure rushed into production before it was truly ready to go on sale.
“We were the first to commercialise and mass produce this vehicle but technically it was not perfect, that I can confess,” Dr Kim said.
“We did not solve the durability problem at the time. It was very urgent to provide our vehicle to customers, especially hydrogen station operators.”
“The new FE is really for the general public. We have mostly solved the durability problem and the driving range will be more than 580 kilometres for one charge – compared to the Tucson, which was 425 kilometres or something like that.”
Initially Hyundai guaranteed an effective working life of four years for the ix35 FCEV, whereas the new car should be good for 10 years and 160,000 kilometres.
Dr Kim suggests the revised machine could boast an official driving range of up to 800 kilometres using the more lenient European fuel economy test, a number that should prove “quite sufficient for customers”.
While Hyundai has worked to reduce the cost of ix35 FCEV (sold in the US as the Tuscon), to a still expensive $US80,000 (A$100,000) Dr Kim cautioned that the price of the production FE “cannot go dramatically down”.
Australian pricing will not be confirmed until much closer to its on-sale date, however TMR understands the production version could be aimed around the $80,000 mark.
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