Hyundai has taken a pioneering step towards introducing hydrogen technology to Australia’s automotive landscape, importing the first fuel cell electric vehicle to be permanently based on our shores.
The Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell has just landed in Australia and is the first part of the South Korean company’s plan to operate a test fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles in the country.
The left-hand-drive ix35 Fuel Cell will be housed at Hyundai Motor Company Australia’s headquarters in Macquarie Park, Sydney, where Australia’s only hydrogen refuelling station is currently being installed.
The Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell uses a fuel cell stack to generate electricity from the reaction of hydrogen and air with the electrodes of the stack. The electricity then powers an electric motor, which produces 100kW and 300Nm, allowing the car to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 12.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 160km/h.
Hyundai delivered its first ix35 Fuel Cell production vehicles to the City of Copenhagen in Denmark in June 2013, and started leasing the vehicle in the US this year with free hydrogen fuel for the length of the lease.
Hyundai Australia CEO Charlie Kim says the ix35 Fuel Cell represents a unique opportunity to showcase hydrogen technology and highlight its potential for commercial availability in the future.
“In February 2013, Hyundai Motor Company became the first automobile manufacturer in the world to begin mass production of a hydrogen-powered vehicle – the ix35 Fuel Cell,” Kim said.
“This gave HMCA the ability to order a fuel cell electric vehicle in the same way as we order any other new Hyundai car. Now we have one, and we believe this fantastic car will help demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as a green transport solution for Australia.
“Ultimately, we see no reason why Australians should not enjoy the same environmental solutions as consumers in other markets. Hyundai strongly supports the idea of a ‘Hydrogen Highway’ in Australia like those already in operation overseas, and we are committed to working with local partners to try to facilitate this.”
Hydrogen Highways have been built in Europe and the US by government and private partnerships for vehicles such as the ix35 Fuel Cell and other hydrogen-powered cars and buses. Some refuelling stations generate their own hydrogen by using solar energy and electrolysers, creating an emissions-free transport network with no greenhouse gases produced in the fuel production phase or emitted from vehicle tailpipes.
Hyundai Australia plans to build an electrolyser in partnership with Australian company Sefca at its Macquarie Park headquarters next year, installing a solar system to power it and the refueller.
The refueller that Hyundai Australia is installing is a small 350bar compressor, which will take between three and seven minutes to fill the ix35 Fuel Cell from empty and provide it with a driving range of approximately 300km.
More advanced 700bar refuellers such as those used in Europe and the US take only three minutes to fill a tank and give the car a maximum range of 594km.
Kim revealed Hyundai Australia’s ‘Fuel Cell Team’ has visited Canberra on a number of occasions over the past two years to brief federal ministers on its hydrogen vehicle technology, and says the reaction has been “very positive”.
“We are not a political entity, nor are we aligned with any political party. However, we have seen in other countries that governments play a crucial role in developing hydrogen refuelling infrastructure,” he said.
“One of our proposals was the ‘Hume by Hydrogen’, which could link Australia’s two largest cities via the nation’s capital. It would require refuelling stations in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, and in between, and could see hydrogen vehicles, including buses, running on the Hydrogen Highway emitting nothing but water vapour.
“A project like ‘Hume by Hydrogen’ would surely demonstrate the benefits of hydrogen transport very effectively – we want our ix35 Fuel Cell to start a meaningful conversation about a hydrogen infrastructure in Australia for the benefit of future generations.”
Hyundai is currently in discussions with prospective local partners to gain support for its proposals, and expects to make further announcements at an official launch event for the ix35 Fuel Cell early next year.
CarAdvice drove an earlier prototype of the ix35 Fuel Cell in 2011. You can read our impressions of that car here.