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Next hydrogen Hyundai could head to Aus

Hard cell: Hyundai's successor to the left-hooker only ix35 Fuel Cell is likely to be offered in right-hand drive, but extensive infrastructure is necessary before it would work in Australia.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell successor likely to be right-hand drive

Hyundai logo3 Oct 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

AUSTRALIA still has a long way to go with alternative energy infrastructure but Hyundai is not letting that dampen its ambitions, and its next-generation emissions-free hydrogen car could be coming Down Under.

With a platform limited to left-hook only, just one ix35 Fuel Cell resides in Australia and has been doing the rounds to promote the clean energy source, but the as yet un-named replacement is likely to be made in both left- and right-hand drive.

The South Korean car-maker is considering a right-hand-drive version for markets such as the United Kingdom and Japan where hydrogen as a vehicle fuel has a much stronger foot-hold, but that also opens Australia as a potential market as well.

Speaking during a 1000km fuel-cell feasibility demonstration across three European countries, Hyundai Motor Company Australia product planning and fuel-cell manager Scott Nargar told GoAuto its new fuel-cell vehicle is likely to be available in right-hand drive.

“Yes we are working towards that and it’s looking pretty good,” he said. “We should get clarification in the coming months. For the UK market there is a massive potential for the hydrogen drivetrain.” During the extended road trip that spanned alpine regions, diverse climates and countries, the fleet of three ix35 Fuel Cells provided all of the practicality, performance and features you would expect from a mid-sized SUV, but Mr Nargar said the next version would bring improvements in almost every area.

“The car is well under development,” he said. “The next platform will be stand-alone fuel-cell so we can do other things with the drivetrain and we won't be restricted to a certain size engine bay and limited space for tanks.

“The current vehicle is very practical but let's see how much better we can get it. It won’t be an ix35 and it won’t be a Tucson.

“We are looking at having more power and the vehicle will drive longer on a tank-load of hydrogen and it will have all the latest and greatest conveniences.” At the road-trip's destination in Frankfurt, GoAuto spoke to Hyundai Motor Europe head of fuel-cell electric vehicle Frank Meijer, who said that while the zero-emissions technology would take time to establish itself as a viable alternative, the departure of Australian manufacturing presented a good opportunity for new technology.

“Yes, I think this is the time more than ever to do so because you have to try to support local production, but now the time is absolutely right to see how you can proceed to support more eco-friendly cars.,” he said.

“Even though our fuel-cell car is ready to go, we believe it still takes a couple of decades before it is a real competitor to internal combustion.” Mr Meijer repeated Mr Nargar's optimism and excitement for the new fuel-cell vehicle and said the future for its fuel-cell-powered models is likely to remain with an SUV format for practicality.

“Like with all new technology, miniaturisation will be quite key in the next couple of years. The powertrain for the 2018 model is pretty close to being set but you will definitely see a lot of improvements there – speed and range.

“The layout will be similar as what we have now. We are only aiming at a higher output and, of course, we are trying to improve consumption at all times.

“For now we are really focusing on usability. Next year we’ll have the introduction of a hybrid and electric car, which will be more urban, smaller kind of cars, while the fuel-cell is really aiming at more flexibility when it comes to space.” The cost of developing the relatively new fuel-cell technology has deterred some other manufacturers but Mr Meijer said that the company was subsidising the cost of each ix35 to encourage people to the new fuel opportunities.

In Europe, the actual cost of an ix35 Fuel Cell is in excess of €100,000 (AU$159,000) but a more customer-friendly price had been decided on to attract a larger network of early adopters.

“If we do that, we would scare off potential customers so we did a lot of testing and found an acceptable price-point.”

he said.

“By the end of this year we will have 250 cars driving in Europe and this is quite important because we will have a good audience with nice feedback which is much more valuable that the few thousand Euro we have to lose in those cars.” Mr Meijer was coy with details of impending fuel-cell vehicle plans but told Australian media that an announcement would be made this month regarding a significant commercial deal that the company had struck in Europe.

“As soon as I am allowed to talk about it, which is by October 23rd or 24th I will inform you guys what’s going on because it’s a very, very big deal.”

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