The upcoming Hyundai 'FE' fuel-cell SUV has been revealed in near-production form in Seoul this week, ahead of its official launch "early next year".
Serving as the replacement for the current ix35 Fuel Cell, the 'Next Generation FCEV' (official name to be announced in January) will be the company's second commercially-produced fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV), and will be powered by Hyundai's fourth-generation hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
In terms of its powertrain, the FE's fuel-cell is nine per cent more efficient than the one used in the ix35 Fuel Cell, allowing for a projected driving range in excess of 580 kilometres based on Korean testing standards – though Hyundai Australia has confirmed that European standards (on which ours are based) indicate a range of over 800km.
Meanwhile, maximum power has been increased by 20 per cent over its predecessor, giving the FE around 120kW. Hyundai claims the FE's fuel-cell has improved cold start capability, while also being more durable than the unit used in the outgoing ix35 Fuel Cell.
Top: Hyundai 'Next Generation FCEV', Bottom: Hyundai FE concept
The FE's hydrogen fuel will be stored in three equally-sized tanks – as opposed to the current two tanks of different capacities.
Hyundai also says the new SUV will feature its advanced driver assistance technologies, which are to be detailed in January at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) along with the production model's official name.
In terms of its design, it appears the production version of the FE will look very much like the concept car that previewed it (above), though a little more tame. The company describes the overall exterior look as futuristic and "inspired by nature".
"The new model builds on the earlier concept’s design, taking an organic and flowing form, inspired by nature – namely water, the car’s only emission – with the clean design emphasising its non-polluting nature," Hyundai said in its release.
Inside, the design is a little more conventional and quite minimalistic. The driver's instruments are fully digital and the display has merged with the central infotainment screen, much like several models from the Mercedes-Benz portfolio.
There are also elements of Lexus in terms of the sloping centre console and cylindrical air vent trim – which extend the entire length of the dashboard.
Hyundai says the interior colour scheme – shades of cream and brown on the vehicle shown – are also inspired by nature, while there's heavy use of bio-materials with eco-friendly certification, along with woven fabric and suede accents in the seat trims.
Australia has helped contribute to the new FCEV's development process, too. Last month two left-hand drive prototypes (above) underwent cold-weather testing in the Snowy Mountains as part of a global testing and durability program.
Meanwhile, Hyundai has already announced it will supply a 20-strong fleet of the 'FE' to the Australian Capital Territory's (ACT) government in late 2018 for the Hornsdale Wind Farm Stage 3 project.
The new fuel-cell SUV will form part of the Hyundai Motor Group's goal of introducing 31 eco-friendly models (up from the 14 announced earlier this year) across the Hyundai and Kia brands to global markets by 2020 – which includes electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles.
Following the launch of the Ioniq hybrid and EV family, Hyundai will introduce an electric version of the Kona crossover – which will have a range of 390km – in the first half of 2018, while the first EV from luxury arm Genesis will launch in 2021. Finally, the company has confirmed a long-range EV with more than 500km of range will arrive after 2021.
Above: Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell
The production version of the 'Next Generation FCEV' has already been confirmed for the ACT government, though public sale in the foreseeable future is unlikely at this point given the lack of hydrogen refueling infrastructure in Australia.
However, Hyundai has already indicated the Ioniq should arrive in local showrooms early in 2018, in all-electric guise along with hybrid and/or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) forms.
Meanwhile, the Kona EV has also been earmarked as a potential offering in Australia, with Bill Thomas, Hyundai's local communications boss, telling CarAdvice: "We would definitely look at the electric version of Kona. A range of 390km is something no one else has at that end of the market".
Stay tuned for more updates in the coming months.