Hyundai Motor has offered an early glimpse of its next generation fuel cell vehicle (FCEV), well ahead of the hydrogen-powered SUV’s official launch early next year.
At a special preview event held in Seoul, the near-production-ready version, which has yet to be named, has a futuristic design and “embodies Hyundai Motor’s commitment to a new era for advanced eco-friendly vehicle development”.
This will be the company’s second commercially produced hydrogen model and uses the marque’s fourth generation of hydrogen fuel cell technology, which has evolved from global research, development and real-world evaluation programs.
The new fuel cell model was developed on four key pillars that focus on fuel cell system efficiency, performance (maximum output), durability, and tank storage density.
By enhancing fuel cell performance, reducing hydrogen consumption, and optimising key components, the vehicle’s efficiency is greatly improved compared to its predecessor, the ix35 Fuel Cell. The new SUV boasts an efficiency level of 60%, or a 9% increase from the ix35’s 55.3%, and targets a driving range of 800km on a single charge (based on New European Driving Cycle standards).
Maximum output is enhanced by 20% compared to its predecessor, with an impressive 163PS of power. The car’s cold start capability has also been improved, overcoming the challenges of starting fuel cell vehicles in temperatures below freezing.
The vehicle’s architecture has been optimised to allow it to be started at minus 30 degrees Celsius by incorporating key components in the fuel stack. In addition to boosting the new car’s capabilities, the improved components – such as MEA (membrane electrode assembly) and bipolar plates – also help to reduce production costs, while highly durable catalyst technology “ensures even greater longevity than its predecessor”.
Significant improvements have also been made in tank storage density: the tank package now features three equally-sized tanks, as opposed to two of different sizes. World-class tank gravimetric capacity (hydrogen storage mass per tank weight) was achieved through innovations to the plastic liner configuration and efficient layering pattern, which resulted in a reduction of thickness.
The new vehicle will also feature ‘advanced driver assistance technologies’ and details of the new features will be disclosed in January, along with the official model name.
“With exceptional efficiency, serene styling, and uncompromised performance, our next generation fuel cell SUV is the true epitome of an eco-friendly vehicle of the future,” said Lee Ki-sang, Senior Vice President of Hyundai Motor Group’s Eco Technology Centre.
“Hyundai Motor will take the lead in developing and producing green energy vehicles that would ultimately complement a near-zero emission society.”
INSPIRED BY NATURE
The new FCEV inherits striking design features from the FE Concept, which was introduced at the 2017 Geneva Auto Show. 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”.
A number of minimalist design elements aim to highlight the model’s technical maturity and cutting-edge technology.
The high-tech look is augmented by low-drag elements that accentuate the clean design: the door handles sit flush to the car, while the air curtain – in conjunction with the air tunnel inside the D-pillar – maximises aerodynamic efficiency. The wheel design also optimises low drag airflow with a special two-piece construction.
The interior layout is “clean and simple” integrating high-tech elements and avoiding clutter; the wide dashboard has a high console to reinforce the loftier SUV driving position and incorporates the ergonomically-designed controls and AV display screen.
The new model will spearhead the company’s plans to accelerate development of low emission vehicles, in line with Hyundai Motor Group’s goal of introducing 31 eco-friendly models (Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors combined) to global markets by 2020.
Using a multi-pronged approach to its eco-vehicle programme, the South Korean manufacturer has said it is committed to a future vehicle line-up comprising a variety of powertrain options – electric, hybrid and fuel cell – “to suit customers’ varied lifestyles”.
Spurred on by greater global demand for fuel-efficient, eco-friendly vehicles, the Hyundai roadmap sets out the brand’s goal of leading the global popularisation of hybrid vehicles and expanding its lineup to SUVs and large vehicles. Another part of the plan is the development of 4WD and FR (Front Engine Rear Wheel Drive) variants, building on its proprietary Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device (TMED) system, which was developed in 2011.
While it continues to develop its electric vehicle market with the current IONIQ model, the company also aims to establish a lineup ranging from small EVs to large and luxurious Genesis-brand models. This electric vehicle development will take place in multiple phases: the launch of the EV version of the Kona compact SUV, with a range of 390km, is expected in the first half of 2018, with the Genesis EV model in 2021, and the long-range EV with a 500km range ‘after 2021’.
Hyundai says it will develop its first dedicated architecture for pure electric vehicles, which will allow it to produce multiple models with longer driving ranges. It also plans to strengthen its hydrogen fuel cell technology, making it smaller and cheaper so that it can be applied to smaller sedans. As part of these efforts, a new hydrogen-powered bus will be unveiled in the fourth quarter of this year.
Hyundai has supplied fuel cell vehicles since 2013 and now sells them in 18 countries around the world. The company began researching fuel cell technology in 1998 and developed its first fuel cell vehicle based on the Santa Fe SUV, as part of a collaboration with CaFCP (California Fuel Cell Partnership).
“Through numerous years of development and production, Hyundai Motor has proved that fuel cell vehicles are as competitive as internal combustion engine cars in terms of safety and reliability”.