Due to its late start, Hyundai was under pressure to catch up with the rest of the automotive industry in the race to find alternative propulsion. They have to be admired for their achievements under such a short timeframe. For instance, Hyundai developed their first electric car alongside their first internal combustion engine in 1991. Only three years after developing their first combustion engine, Hyundai started the development of alternative solutions. The two technologies that the company decide to concentrate on are solar and hydrogen fuel cells. In 1999 Hyundai developed Korea’s first automotive fuel cell and the first fuel cell vehicle the year after in the Santa Fe FCEV, this placed Hyundai as a world leader in hydrogen fuel cell technology. This title was re-established this year when it was announced that Hyundai will be the first auto manufacturer to put a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle into mass production with a pledge of one thousand by 2015 and plans of increasing this to 10,000 in 2015 as the infrastructure develops. The first thousand will not be for sale, rather leased to public and private fleets to prove the viability. This new technology is delivered to the public in the familiar shape of Hyundai’s ix35. The performance appears to be sufficient, not out performing battery vehicles available today, but the real difference is in the re-fuelling time which will only take a couple of minutes and with a full tank range said to be almost 600 kilometres, this will no doubt be Hyundai’s trump when it comes to sales.
Although the commitment to the hydrogen fuel cell is commendable and a good effort to clean up our transport, it’s a bit like bushing the dirt from one room to another as the energy required in the production of hydrogen will still come from somewhere and as such the emissions removed from the tailpipes will inevitably come from somewhere else as well. On this thought, I believe a bio fuelled generator with an electric drivetrain and super capacitors to store regenerated power could prove be a more realistic and efficient platform for propulsion when considering the entire process of where our fuel comes from and not just what emissions our cars produce.