Hyundai have announced plans to introduce the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
The South Korean firm says it will modify its existing ix35 model to be fitted with new fuel cells and the model will go into medium-scale production from 2015.
The manufacturer has committed to build 1,000 examples between now and 2015 at its production line in Ulsan, Korea, and five of the emission-free vehicles will soon be on the streets of London as part of the London Hydrogen Network Expansion (LNHE) project.
The LHNE project is a consortium of companies with expertise in hydrogen transport infrastructure and operation working to establish the UK’s first hydrogen transport network covering London and south-east England.
The project, a government-backed initiative co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, aims to put hydrogen-fuelled vehicles into daily business use and deliver the refuelling infrastructure to support their operation.
Kit Malthouse, London Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise and chairman of the London Hydrogen Partnership, said: “The work of the London Hydrogen Partnership and other projects has really catapulted London towards the forefront of the move to a hydrogen future.
“Battery electric vehicles are a great technology but like the fax machine they are only temporary and there is a great deal of consumer resistance towards them for all manner of reasons, including range and the time it takes to recharge them.
“Even though we have around 1,300 charging points in the capital you cannot guarantee getting a space outside your house to charge overnight: London is just too densely populated.”
Malthouse continued: “For me, hydrogen cracks all those problems and it also solves other issues along the way such as making best use of wind energy, for example. We also produce a huge amount of waste and we are looking at schemes that convert biomass into hydrogen. So as well as producing a clean fuel we would be reducing the amount of waste we put into landfill.
“These are early days, but I am tremendously excited by the prospects of London’s hydrogen future. Hyundai is providing invaluable insights and bringing global experience to the Mayor’s innovative low-carbon, low-emission transport activities.”
Fuel cell vehicles introduced as part of the project will be leased to key public and private fleet users in the capital.
The majority of the 1,000 cars to be produced before 2015 will be available in Europe where the European Commission has established a number of schemes, such as the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), to promote the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier with zero carbon content.
Hyundai has gone to great pains to produce a car that offers the same practicality, safety levels and driving experience as an ix35 driven by an internal combustion engine, but with zero tailpipe emissions.
The new ix35 model has a 100mph maximum speed, can do 0 to 62mph in 12.5 seconds, has a range of almost 370 miles from each tank and can be refuelled in two to three minutes.
The firm has been developing fuel cell vehicles for more than 15 years, but it said it was only the arrival of infrastructure projects such as LNHE that has allowed it to consider going into full production.
The London Hydrogen Partnership has initiated more than £50m worth of hydrogen projects already including the two existing refuelling stations, the operation of five fuel cell London buses, which joined the Transport for London fleet in 2011, with another three to join in 2013, as well as a fleet of London taxis fuelled by hydrogen.
A further three fuelling stations are planned by 2015, by which time it is expected that the number of fuel cell vehicles in London will have risen ten-fold from the initial five to at least 50 or more including passenger cars, buses and scooters.
Tony Whitehorn, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor UK, said: “Hydrogen delivers considerable environmental benefits and we are looking forward to working closely with the other partners to drive forward its widespread introduction.”