Production of the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell began at the company’s Ulsan manufacturing plant in Korea in January, making Hyundai the first automaker to begin commercial production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The first complete car rolled off the assembly line on February 26.
Hyundai plans to make 1,000 units of the ix35 Fuel Cell by 2015, targeted predominantly at public sector and private fleets, with limited mass production of 10,000 units beyond 2015. The company has already signed contracts to lease the ix35 Fuel Cell to municipal fleets in Copenhagen, Denmark and Skåne, Sweden.
Additionally, since October 2011, the EU Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) in Brussels has been providing the ix35 Fuel Cell to EU policy makers and the public in order to demonstrate the market readiness of fuel cell tech.
The ix35 Fuel Cell is the third-generation fuel cell-powered EV from Hyundai after the Santa Fe FCEV in 2000 and the Tucson FCEV in 2005. Naturally, the ix35 Fuel Cell delivers improvements over its predecessor, including a range that has been extended by more than 50% and fuel efficiency gains of more than 15%.
The car is equipped with a 100 kW (136 hp) electric motor, allowing it to reach a maximum speed of 160 km/h. Two hydrogen storage tanks, with a total capacity of 5.64 kg, enable the vehicle to travel a total of 594 km on a single fill. The energy is stored in a 24 kW lithium-ion polymer battery, jointly developed with LG Chemical.
Fuel cells operate by turning chemical energy from hydrogen into electromechanical energy. Internal to a fuel cell, an anode and cathode sandwich a polymer electrolyte membrane. The process of creating an electrical current occurs in three stages.
First, hydrogen gas flows over the anode, causing it to split into hydrogen ions (protons) and electrons. The polymer electrolyte membrane only allows the protons to pass through. The electrons travel to an external circuit which operate the motor. At the cathode, electrons and protons react with oxygen (from air) creating H2O (water) which flows out of the cell as the only waste product.
Hyundai isn’t the only one playing with hydrogen. Earlier this year, Daimler AG, Ford and Nissan agreed to jointly develop a common fuel cell stack and system for “the world’s first affordable, mass-market FCEVs” by 2017. A a fuel cell vehicle system (fuel cell stack, hydrogen tank and motor) by 2020 is also on the BMW-Toyota cooperation agenda.