Hyundai Motor has offered an early glimpse of its next-generation fuel cell vehicle ahead of the hydrogen-powered SUV’s official launch early next year. A near-production-ready version of the yet-to-be-named model was exhibited at a special event held in Seoul.
The new SUV previews Hyundai Motor’s second commercially produced hydrogen model and uses the company’s fourth generation of hydrogen fuel cell technology. The vehicle, its capabilities and fuel cell technologies are an evolution of Hyundai Motor’s global research, development and real-world evaluation programmes. The new vehicle reinforces the company’s leadership in fuel cell-based electric-powertrain systems, created with expertise honed through the its first commercial production of a fuel cell vehicle in 2013.
The new fuel cell model was developed on four key pillars that focus on fuel cell system efficiency, performance (maximum output), durability, and tank storage density.
Fuel cell system efficiency: By enhancing fuel cell performance, reducing hydrogen consumption, and optimizing key components, the vehicle’s efficiency is greatly improved compared to its predecessor, the ix35 Fuel Cell (Tucson Fuel Cell in some markets). The new SUV boasts an efficiency level of 60 per cent, or a 9 per cent increase from the ix35’s 55.3 per cent. With enhanced system efficiency, the new model targets a driving range of 800 km (about 500 miles) on a single charge (based on New European Driving Cycle standards).
Performance (maximum output): The new model’s maximum output is enhanced by 20 per cent compared to its predecessor, boasting 161 bhp of power. The fuel cell SUV also improves the car’s cold start capability, overcoming the challenges of starting fuel cell vehicles in temperatures below freezing point. The vehicle’s architecture is optimised to allow it to be started at -30 degrees Celsius, by incorporating key components in the fuel stack developed by Hyundai Motor. In addition to boosting the new car’s capabilities, the enhanced components – such as MEA (membrane electrode assembly) and bipolar plates – also helped to reduce production costs.
Durability: By employing highly durable catalyst technology, the new hydrogen-powered SUV ensures greater longevity than its predecessor.
Hydrogen storage: The next generation hydrogen vehicle makes significant improvements in tank storage density. The tank package now features three equally-sized tanks, as opposed to two of different sizes. World-class tank gravimetric capacity (hydrogen storage mass per tank weight) was achieved through innovations to the plastic liner configuration and efficient layering pattern, which resulted in a reduction of thickness.
The mass-produced new vehicle will also feature advanced driver assistance technologies, alongside its extensive hydrogen-powered range. The details of the new ADAS features will be disclosed in January at the 2018 CES technology trade show, along with the official model name.
“With exceptional efficiency, serene styling, and uncompromised performance, our next generation fuel cell SUV is the true epitome of an eco-friendly vehicle of the future,” said Lee Ki-sang, Senior Vice President of Hyundai Motor Group’s Eco Technology Center. “Hyundai Motor will take lead in developing and producing green energy vehicles that would ultimately complement a near-zero emission society.”
The new FCEV inherits design features from the FE Concept, which was introduced at the 2017 Geneva Auto Show. Hyundai says the new model builds on the earlier concept’s design, taking an organic and flowing form, inspired by nature – namely water, the car’s only emission – with the clean design emphasizing its non-polluting nature.
The door handles sit flush to the car, while the air curtain – in conjunction with the air tunnel inside the D-pillar – maximises aerodynamic efficiency. The SUV’s wheel design is optimised for low drag airflow with a specialised two-piece construction.
The new model will spearhead Hyundai Motor’s plans to accelerate development of low emission vehicles, in line with Hyundai Motor Group’s renewed goal of introducing 31 eco-friendly models (Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors combined) to global markets by 2020. This new development roadmap also represents the next step for Hyundai Motor and its affiliate toward realising the ultimate ambition of creating a cleaner environment through eco-friendly vehicles.
Hyundai Motor says it plans to take a multi-pronged approach to its eco-vehicle program. The company is committed to a future vehicle line-up comprising a variety of powertrain options – electric, hybrid and fuel cell.
The roadmap sets out the brand’s goal of leading the global popularisation of hybrid vehicles, expanding its lineup to SUVs and large vehicles. Another part of the plan is the development of 4WD and FR (Front Engine Rear Wheel Drive) variants, building on its proprietary Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device (TMED) system, which was developed in 2011.
While Hyundai Motor continues to develop its position in the electric vehicle market with its current IONIQ model, the company also aims to establish a lineup ranging from small EVs to large and luxurious Genesis-brand models. Hyundai Motor’s electric vehicle development will take place in multiple phases:
- Launch of EV version of the Kona compact SUV, with range of 390 km (about 240 miles) in first half of 2018
- Launch of Genesis EV model in 2021
- Launch of long-range EV, with 500 km (about 310 miles) range after 2021
Furthermore, Hyundai Motor will develop its first dedicated architecture for pure electric vehicles, which will allow the company to produce multiple models with longer driving ranges.
Hyundai Motor will also strengthen its position in hydrogen fuel cell technology. This will centre on enhancing research and development efforts to boost FCEV performance and durability, while also making the technology smaller and cheaper so that it can be applied to smaller cars. As part of these efforts, Hyundai Motor will unveil a new hydrogen-powered bus in the fourth quarter of this year.