Hyundai could clear the air

6 June 2008
, CarsGuide

While the United States is still wondering who killed the electric car, Korea might beat the rest of the world in the race towards selling a zero emissions vehicle – and also to what could be the most frugal car on our market.

Visiting Australia this week, Hyundai fuel cell expert, Dr Sungho Lee said the company would begin production of an emission-free fuel cell electric vehicle in 2012.

“Imagine if a car produced no pollution at all – only water,” Dr Lee says.

“This is possible in our fuel cell electric vehicles and we believe fuel cell electric vehicles will become very important as a clean energy source in the future.”

Dr Lee says the vehicles Hyundai has been trialing – four bus prototypes — run on electricity produced by the electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen within the fuel cells.

The system mainly consists of hydrogen tanks, fuel cell stacks, a motor, a motor controller, and also a super capacitor which has been newly adopted as an auxiliary power source.

The bus – which was trialled as part of Hyundai’s sponsorship of football World Cup in Germany in 2006 — has a range of 300 kilometres and can reach up to 80km/h.

However Dr Lee says the technology will be developed for use in a passenger car, loosely based on the i-Blue concept revealed last year.

“When you will be able to drive a zero emission car from Hyundai? Our development program will be complete by 2011, and we plan to start production around 2012,” he says.

Dr Lee believes there will continue to be growing acceptance of environmentally friendly vehicles, which will accelerate as petrol prices rise. He says that the cost of driving conventional cars will double by the end of 2010, which will force more people to look for alternatives.

He acknowledges that many buyers currently dismiss hybrid vehicles because of their lower power outputs, but says this is also changing.

“As Hyundai kept developing hybrid engines, their power has increased,” Dr Lee says.

“Now we can have 100kW – and maybe more in future – we are, yes, truly in the game.”

Hyundai is also looking at bringing to the Aussie market a hybrid LPG passenger that could have fuel consumption as low as 2.7 litres per 100km. This would make it by far the most economical vehicle on our market – and could make it a contender among the world’s cheapest running costs.