A Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell, a hydrogen-powered, zero-emissions Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) built in Ulsan, South Korea, has arrived in Australia. It is the first hydrogen-powered car to be permanently imported into the country.
The vehicle is the first component of Hyundai’s plan to operate a test fleet of ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles in Australia. As such, it represents a pioneering step toward the commercial availability of emissions-free hydrogenpowered vehicles in Australia.
“In February 2013, Hyundai Motor Company became the first automobile manufacturer in the world to begin mass-production of a hydrogen-powered vehicle – the ix35 Fuel Cell,” said Mr Charlie Kim, Chief Executive Officer, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA).
“This gave HMCA the ability to order a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle in the same way as we order any other new Hyundai car. Now we have one, and we believe this fantastic car will help demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as a green transport solution for Australia.”
Hyundai has now begun the installation of Australia’s only Hydrogen Refuelling Station (HRS) at its headquarters in Macquarie Park, Sydney, using hydrogen provided by gas partner Coregas Australia. The HRS, supplied by American company Air Products, has passed all planning permissions from Ryde Council and is expected to be fully operational early in 2015 after testing is completed during December
“Ultimately, we see no reason why Australians should not enjoy the same environmental solutions as consumers in other markets,” continued Mr Kim. “Hyundai strongly supports the idea of a ‘Hydrogen Highway’ in Australia like those already in operation overseas, and we are committed to working with local partners to try to facilitate this.”
Scott Nargar, Hyundai Motor Company Australia Product Planning Manager and head of the HMCA Fuel Cell Program answered a few questions, which might arise in the minds of the consumers. Following is the except-
Q. How does the ix35 Fuel Cell work?
A. It’s essentially an electric car, with the electricity supplied by a fuel cell stack. The really clever part happens inside the fuel cell itself -in simple terms, Hydrogen molecules from the fuel tank are combined with air, and passed through a membrane in a process called electrolysis, which creates the electricity used to power the car’s electric motor.
The ix35 Fuel Cell uses what’s known as a PEM Fuel Cell – PEM stands for Proton Exchange Membrane or Polymer Electrolyte Membrane. Here’s what happens:
1. A fuel cell has two electrodes, an anode and a cathode that are separated by a membrane.
2. Oxygen passes over one electrode and hydrogen over the other.
3. The hydrogen reacts to a catalyst on the electrode anode that converts the hydrogen gas into negatively charged electrons (e-) and positively charged ions (H +).
4. The electrons flow out of the cell to be used as electrical energy.
5. The hydrogen ions move through the electrolyte membrane to the cathode electrode where they combine with oxygen to produce heat and water.
Q. What is the specification of the vehicle?
A. It is a left-hand-drive, European-specification ix35 Fuel Cell. This model is currently not made in right hand drive.
Q. Is the hydrogen fuel in the vehicle dangerous?
A. The ix35 Fuel Cell meets the strictest global vehicle safety standards, like all the safest cars do – over 30 of the vehicles have been crash-tested to verify its level of safety. Many Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles are now operational on public roads around the world, including in California and countries throughout Europe.
Hydrogen is an ultra-light element that dissipates quickly when it comes into contact with the atmosphere, unlike petrol which can form in pools and burn – it is flammable, yes, but no more dangerous than other gases and arguably less dangerous than a fluid like petrol.
The car’s hydrogen tanks are constructed with steel and carbon composite wrap, enough to contain the gas at a maximum pressure of 700bar (10,000psi). The hydrogen tanks have had bullets fired at them, have been put into fire baths and subjected to other extreme tests to verify their immense strength – fuel pressure is greatly reduced before it enters the vehicle’s fuel cell stack.
In short, the ix35 Fuel Cell is extremely safe.
It’s also worth noting that Australia is quite advanced with the use of other gaseous fuels like LPG and CNG, so hydrogen technology – more advanced than LPG – should represent no great challenge for Australia in safety terms.
Q. What is it like to drive?
A. Surprisingly quick – it develops maximum torque at zero revs and accelerates more rapidly than you’d expect. Some members of the Australian media drove this version of the ix35 Fuel Cell recently at Hyundai’s Namyang proving ground and were surprised by how ‘natural’ the car is to drive. It’s near silent, too, the same as any electric car.
Q. How fast is it?
A. The ix35 Fuel Cell accelerates from 0-100kmh in 12.5 seconds and its maximum speed is 160kmh. It is no racing car, but it’s not slow. It’s like a normal car in most ways, but it’s an electric vehicle, so it makes no engine noise and has no gearbox.
Q. How long will it take to refuel?
A. With an advanced, full-size 700bar (10,000PSI) refueller like those used in Europe and America, fill time is about three minutes, the same as a normal petrol or diesel car.
The refueller we will install at HMCA is a small 350bar (5,000PSI)compressor. Fill time is between three and seven minutes.
Q. What is the specification of HMCA’s hydrogen refueller?
A. It is a 350bar refueller made by Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. of Allentown, Pennsylvania. We can provide full details of the unit if required. Refuelling at 350bar instead of 700barwill mean our vehicle will have a range of approximately 300km – ample to demonstrate its capabilities.
Q. When will the refueller be working?
A. It will be operational early in 2015.
Q. Does the refueller generate its own hydrogen?
A. No. It will use compressed hydrogen supplied by Coregas Australia in bottled form. The hydrogen is made by natural gas reformation at Port Kembla NSW.
Next year, HMCA is planning to install an electrolyser unit in partnership with Australian company Sefcato generate hydrogen on-site, using water extracted from the atmosphere combined with solar power. We will reveal details of this unit in good time. Meanwhile, the Air Products machine combined with Coregas-supplied hydrogen serves our purposes well.