The Hyundai Eco-Technology Research Institute has been working on fuel-cell technology since opening in 1998. This odyssey began with the goal of producing a practical model by the end of 2012. After 14 years of experimentation, Hyundai announced that this ambitious goal should be achieved by the ix35 Fuel Cell. An initial run of 1,000 units will begin at the automaker’s plant in Ulsan, South Korea by December. Hyundai plans to complete this production run by 2015 with plans for a larger release by the end of the decade. The realization of Hyundai’s fuel-cell research gives hope for automakers who have labored for years to promote hydrogen as an alternative fuel.
The ix35 Fuel Cell is powered by a 100 kW fuel-cell stack along with a 24 kW battery pack. Hyundai has already tested the battery in the Sonata Hybrid, providing some ease of mind for new buyers. A 5.6 kilogram storage unit provides sufficient fuel for daily commutes. The ix35 Fuel Cell also incorporates a start/stop system that shuts down the stack during full stops. Drivers in cold climates need not worry about starting the ix35 Fuel Cell thanks to a cold-start threshold of -30 degrees Celsius. Lingering concerns should be relaxed by more than two million miles of road testing completed by Hyundai drivers from South Korea to the European Union.
Performance estimates from Hyundai cast the ix35 Fuel Cell as a strong replacement for traditional models. A top speed of 100 miles per hour shows that this model has some power. The ix35 Fuel Cell can hit 60 MPH from a full stop in about 12.5 seconds, which is a bit sluggish but sufficient for typical driving. Hyundai expects the ix35 Fuel Cell to travel up to 365 miles before requiring a refueling stop. This drive system improves on the fuel economy of the company’s previous fuel-cell system by about 10%.
Hyundai selected the ix35 as the vehicle for fuel-cell conversion based on the model’s popularity in Europe. The ix35 has been the runner-up in terms of overall sales in Europe over the past year. The Fuel Cell version of this existing model is considered an important addition for the Blue Drive label that encompasses Hyundai’s green efforts. Hyundai has completed contracts to lease this model in Sweden and Denmark starting in January 2013. The automaker hopes to expand production of the ix35 Fuel Cell to 10,000 units by 2020. These units would enter new European markets as well as South Korea and California.
The upcoming release of the ix35 Fuel Cell is possible thanks to improvements in infrastructure and public policy throughout the European Union. Hyundai observed member nations like Sweden and Denmark committing to infrastructure development plans that included frequent refueling stations. These plans have recently been given public funds to bring stations to life, which is critical for the success of any fuel-cell vehicle. Hyundai is currently participating in the European Hydrogen Road Tour covering the entire continent including a recent stop in Paris. The ix35 Fuel Cell joins a growing fleet of fuel-cell models heading for Europe thanks to the continent’s commitment to this eco-friendly technology.