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Hydrogen power for Hyundai

Hyundai installs Australia's first hydrogen refuelling point since 2007.

Toyota and Honda may have just unveiled their hydrogen-powered cars of the future, but Hyundai's is here today.

Hyundai is installing Australia's first hydrogen-refueling point for passenger cars at its Sydney headquarters, and it has just imported its first hydrogen-powered car.

But rather than the spaceship looks of the Toyota and Honda sedans, Hyundai's hydrogen car is based on a family-friendly SUV.

The first hydrogen-powered Hyundai ix35 arrived in Australia two months ago and the company has commenced the installation of a local refueling point.

However, hydrogen cars are a long way from showroom reality in Australia as there are currently no other refill stations.

Hyundai's will be the first hydrogen refuelling point in Australia since the three-year hydrogen bus trial in Perth ended in 2007.

"We are excited by hydrogen technology and what it could mean for the future of transport, said Hyundai Australia boss Charlie Kim.

"However, the challenge of creating and distributing hydrogen through a viable, sustainable network is a significant one."

Hyundai says government intervention is required to develop a hydrogen highway.

"We are not a political entity, nor are we aligned with any political party. However, we have seen in other countries that governments play a crucial role in developing hydrogen refuelling infrastructure," said Mr Kim, whose company has been in discussions with the federal government for two years.

"The reaction has been very positive. Maybe one day we'll see a 'Hydrogen Highway' built in Australia, like those already in operation overseas," said Mr Kim.

Hyundai says, for example, "the 'Hume by Hydrogen' could link Australia's two largest cities via the nation's Capital. It would require four refuelling stations – in Sydney, Canberra, Albury and Melbourne – and could see hydrogen vehicles – including buses – running in and between these cities emitting nothing but water vapour."

Experts believe electric and hybrid cars are merely a stepping stone to hydrogen-powered vehicles.

They can be refueled in five minutes and can travel about 450km on each tank – both about the same as a petrol car.

In ideal conditions,driving purely for efficiency, the Hyundai has travelled 700km on one tank during a test in Sweden.

Hydrogen cars have been leased to specialist customers in Japan, Europe and North America, where the refueling points are more common, albeit still growing in numbers.

In such cars hydrogen is used to power a "fuel cell" to generate electricity which is then used to either power the electric motor or charge the battery, or both. The only emissions from the tailpipe is water vapour from the fuel cell.

In the case of the ix35, the only difference between the hydrogen-powered version and the regular model is that it loses the underfloor space in the boot that usually houses the spare tyre (to house part of the hydrogen system).

The Hyundai ix35 went into mass production in South Korea earlier this year and is made on the same production line as the regular model, but is being sold in limited numbers.

The car is unlikely to go on sale in Australia as it is left-hand-drive only for now but the company is gauging interest in future models.

Hyundai's hydrogen refueling point is due to open early next year and the company says it is happy to allow other brands to use it.

At last month's Los Angeles motor show, Honda and Toyota unveiled futuristic-looking hydrogen cars due in showrooms in the next two years, but neither are planned for Australia at this stage. Hyundai's refueling point could change that.

Joshua Dowling
National Motoring Editor
Joshua Dowling was formerly the National Motoring Editor of News Corp Australia. An automotive expert, Dowling has decades of experience as a motoring journalist, where he specialises in industry news.
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