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Hyundai keeps options open for Aussie fuel cell

Cell out: Hyundai’s first shipment of ix35 Fuel Cell cars for Californian customer lease roll off a ship from South Korea.

Fuel-cell car still a chance for Hyundai demo, despite non-existent infrastructure

22 May 2014

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) still hopes to acquire at least one hydrogen-powered ix35 Fuel Cell car for local demonstration purposes, despite the current lack of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in Australia.

While California has announced plans to roll out a chain of 50 government-backed hydrogen refuelling stations across America’s most populous state to serve a growing number of fuel cell vehicles, Australia currently has none, with no firm plans to introduce any at an official level.

The sole hydrogen station in this country – a bus refuelling station in Perth – has been dismantled, meaning companies such as Hyundai that wish to introduce emissions-free cars running on hydrogen face a tough road.

However, HMCA PR general manager Bill Thomas told GoAuto that his company had not given up hope that a solution could be found to provide at least one hydrogen generation and refuelling station to prove the benefits of fuel-cell transportation.

“If we do this, we want to be in it for the long term, and not just a one-off stunt that goes off like a firework,” he said.

In the United States, Hyundai is preparing to roll out hydrogen-powered ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles to lease customers in southern California, complete with a free fuel supply thrown in.

The exercise is claimed to be the first roll-out of a mass-produced fuel-cell car in the US, although other manufacturers, including Honda with its FX Clarity prototype fleet, have dabbled in fuel cell test fleets in the US’s most car-crazy state.

Honda and Toyota both have promised to offer fuel cell cars for customer delivery next year – a move boosted by California’s plan to expand the number of hydrogen refuelling stations to more than 50 across the state within two years.

The Hyundai fuel cell vehicle, which is already offered for sale in Europe, will cost Californian customers a $2990 ($A3227) down-payment and $499 ($A538) a month for the duration of the 36-month lease.

However, Hyundai will offer customers free hydrogen refills and star treatment at dealerships during service.

At this stage, Hyundai will only offer the ix35 Fuel Cell – called Tucson Fuel Cell in the US – through three dealerships in California, and has no immediate plans to expand sales beyond America’s most populous state.

No sales projections were disclosed, although only a limited run is expected out to 2016.

The first shipment of vehicles was unloaded from a ship from South Korea this week near Los Angeles, with the first reaching customers within the “next several weeks”.

Hyundai Motor America vice-president, corporate and product planning Mike O’Brien said hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles represented the next generation of zero-emission electric vehicle technology.

“We’re proud of our leadership role in this important segment of the alternative fuel vehicle market,” he said.

“The range and refuelling time of our ix35 Fuel Cell compare favourably with gasoline vehicles, making them a seamless transition.

“We’re excited to provide customers in southern California a way to transition to a zero-emission vehicle with minimal compromises.”

The ix35 Fuel Cell is powered by a bank of fuel cells that turn hydrogen into electricity driving a 100kW electric motor.

The vehicles is said to be capable of accelerating from zero to 100km/h in 12.5 seconds, and has a potential driving range of almost 600km. The tanks can be refuelled with hydrogen in just three minutes. This compares with several hours for a battery electric car.

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