Hyundai Pushing Ahead Fuel Cell Strategy, New SUV Slated For Production


Hyundai introduced what will be its next fuel cell powered car at an event in Seoul this week. Based on the FE Concept it brought to Geneva earlier this year, the as yet unnamed new model will go on sale in Korea early in 2018, followed by sales in the US and Europe shortly thereafter.

Hyundai fuel cell SUV

The big news is that the fourth generation fuel cell for the new car is more powerful, more efficient, and has longer range than the unit used in the current Tucson FCEV, known in other markets as the ix35. Efficiency of the fuel cell is now 60% — up from 55% in the Tucson. Range is up to 800 kilometers or 500 miles, according to a Hyundai press release. That’s using the New European Driving Cycle, so knock that back to about 400 miles by the time an EPA sticker goes on the window.

The new fuel cell configuration is more powerful as well. It is rated at 161 horsepower — 20% more than the Tucson FCEV. It also has been tweaked to improve low temperature operation. It now performs well at temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees F). The system was tested for its cold weather performance prowess in the¬†Snow Mountains in Australia as part of the company’s global assessment and durability program.

Hyundai is naturally enthusiastic about the styling of the new car, touting its smooth, flowing flanks which it says evoke the flow of water — which is the only by product emitted by its fuel cell. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but the Concept that appeared in Geneva is far more attractive than car the press saw in Seoul.

Hyundai fuel cell concept

In particular, the Concept featured smooth front end styling that resembles the grille-less look pioneered by Tesla. The prototype has an enormous toothy grille that looks like a nuclear powered cheese grater. Auto makers seem convinced customers want cars that look like they can chew up and spit out any cars that dare get in their way. Maybe that’s true. Styling gets intensively test marketed. But the clean Tesla front end treatment seems more appropriate for a car whose main feature is that is does not have an internal combustion engine.

Hyundai is busy filling as many holes in its product lineup as possible. It’s conventional cars are world class in terms of styling and owner satisfaction. Its hybrid offerings are world class as well, with the new Ioniq Hybrid being the EPA’s MPGe champion. It is pushing forward aggressively with plug-in hybrid technology and has plans for a pure electric chassis in the works.

Fuel cells are appealing. What could be more eco-friendly than a power source that creates no waste products other than water vapor and heat? Getting the hydrogen, transporting it, and building hydrogen refueling stations that are frighteningly expensive are the problem. Also, as this photo reveals, the fuel cell powertrain is bulky. Compared to an electric powertrain, which leaves room for extra storage capacity in the “frunk,” an FCEV still needs a full engine compartment and large storage tanks.

In the contest between hydrogen powered cars and electric cars, it appears electrics are the clear winner, but Hyundai will be ready for the hydrogen economy, when and if it ever arrives.

Source: New Atlas

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  • Ed

    While not exactly comparable, these photos show the relative complexity of fuel cell vehicles vs. battery electric. Tesla’s upcoming Model Y apparently is really going to simplify the wiring needed for an EV.

    • Steve Hanley

      Good point, Ed. Thanks for those photos.

  • S’toon

    Hydrogen is NOT clean. 95% of hydrogen is produced from natural gas in a process that produces yes, carbon.

    It takes electricity to produce hydrogen, you have to transport that hydrogen to fuel stations, and then it takes vast amounts of electricity to store hydrogen.

    Then, in the vehicle, the hydrogen is converted back to electricity. It’s about 30% efficient. That’s as bad as an ICE car. Plus, hydrogen is more expensive than gasoline.

    It’ll cost over $1 TRILLION to build a hydrogen infrastructure.

    Do us all a favour. Let this bad solution looking for a problem to solve die, and let us all go with efficient battery electric vehicles.

  • Epicurus

    Where are S. Korea and Japan planning to get the hydrogen? Neither has natural gas reserves AFAIK.

    • Steve Hanley

      Last I heard, they were planning to import it from Australia. There were plans for massive hydrogen tanker ships in the air a year or so ago but haven’t heard any more about it for a while.

      Japan wants to use the 2020 Olympics as a global showcase for the hydrogen economy. Not sure how well that is going to work out, but it is a big part of that country’s push for fuel cell transportation.

      • Epicurus

        If the media drill down on the costs, the showcase will most likely be a disaster.

  • Jim Smith

    I thought i just read Hyundai is pushing hard into pure EVs too? Seems silly to be wasting money on fool cells. I guess they are getting massive government subsidies for it.