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Hyundai in fuel-cell vehicle push

Zero tolerance: The front-drive Tucson fuel-cell vehicle is HMC’s second generation zero-emissions vehicle.

Hyundai aims to have a fuel-cell vehicle on sale in 2010

24 May 2004

HYUNDAI Motor Co. will have a petrol-electric hybrid car available for commercial sale within two years and intends to become one of the first car-makers in the world to reach the showrooms with a fuel-cell vehicle in 2010.

The senior vice-president of Hyundai-Kia’s Advanced Technology Centre, Joon-Chul Park, told GoAuto that both vehicles were crucial elements in the South Korean car-maker’s quest to become one of the five biggest auto manufacturers at the turn of this decade.

He said commercialisation would be realised at the end of each respective R&D program, which with the petrol-electric drivetrain focuses on the Getz small car and for fuel cells has switched in recent months from the ageing Santa Fe to the all-new Tucson all-terrain wagon.

These platforms will change before hitting the streets, but Mr Park confirmed that a SUV (sports utility vehicle) platform would be used for the first commercial fuel cell vehicle when the current Tucson program ends in 2009.

"The five years (from 2004) is our demonstration and development period, so we’d have cars for commercial sale from 2010," Mr Park told GoAuto at the Tucson’s launch in South Korea last month.

"The vehicle will change. The Tucson is the platform for development for this first technology. At that time, we may choose a different platform … (but) we think SUVs is the proper platform we ought to use at that time.

"Packaging is the dominant issue. SUVs give us more space than other vehicles." Mr Park said HMC had not set out to become the first car company to offer mass-market fuel cell vehicles but was determined to run with leaders in the field such as Toyota and Honda.

"The fuel cell will be the future powertrain so somehow we have to stay with the development of fuel cell technology," he said.

"We cannot be simply sitting idle, watching others doing development work – we shall try to remain at the same level.

"We think (our) starting point is almost the same as the others. If you are doing very well, then maybe you can be ahead of others, but we don’t want to be too ambitious. Still, we have this kind of thinking in our minds." Unveiled at the Geneva motor show earlier this year, the front-drive Tucson FCV is HMC’s second generation zero-emissions vehicle built in collaboration with American fuel cell giant United Technologies Corporation (UTC).

It has several advantages over the previous Santa Fe FCV including cold-weather starting, a higher-output fuel cell stack and an extended driving range from the Dynetek-developed hydrogen storage tank. Vehicle durability and interior packaging (lower floor height) are also improved with the stack relocated from the undercarriage to the traditional engine bay.

"Once we put the fuel cell stack under the floor, we became worried about the damage that could happen when driving the vehicle on the road," Mr Park said.

"If it’s on the floor, naturally it’s more susceptible to rust and those kinds of things, so we have put it in the engine bay to better protect it." HMC also claims to have eliminated hesitation associated with power being cut when the Santa Fe FCV is driven under hard acceleration, the biggest sticking point to emerge at a 1000m straight-road drive given to journalists at HMC’s Namyang R&D centre near Seoul.

"(Santa Fe) is operating between 160-270 voltage but Tucson’s average voltage is more than 300V, so higher voltage gives us better motor performance and some more room not to have that hesitation," said Hyundai-Kia principal research engineer (fuel cell), Tae Won Lim.

"The second reason is that in order to improve the fuel cell durability, we have done so much research and development that Tucson’s durability is three times longer than Santa Fe."

1 center image That HMC management took its Getz hybrid (left) to the test track but refused to hand over the keys made plain the fact that Hyundai still has some distance to travel before reaching the benchmark set by Toyota’s Prius II and Honda’s Civic Hybrid.

There are some packaging issues to resolve with the five-door hatch, with underfloor space in the cargo area (and therefore room for a spare wheel) taken up with the 40kg Panasonic-sourced battery pack. HMC engineers said the mass-market version was expected to relocate the batteries against the rear seatback, which in turn would necessitate seat strengthening and eliminate the seat-fold function.

The petrol-electric drivetrain has, like the Prius and Civic, an automatic idle-stop feature and performance should be sufficient for such a light car with the combined efforts of a 1.4-litre petrol engine – specifications for which were not available – and a 12kW electric motor driving the front wheels through a ZF-sourced CVT transmission.

Both the Getz HEV and Tucson FCV will be tested in real-world conditions, with 50 hybrid prototypes running with the South Korean Government until 2006 and at least 30 Tucson FCVs based in California over the next few years. The latter could increase now that HMC, along with several other manufacturers, has secured a slice of a $US350 million US Government grant designed to get more FCV prototypes onto American streets.

HMC will spend $US2.3 billion on R&D in 2004, almost double its expenditure in 2001, which in addition to fuel cell and hybrid powertrains will be used for stand-alone internal combustion engine developments including a forthcoming common-rail turbo-diesel that meets Euro 4 regulations.

Mr Park said Kia-badged vehicles would emerge using hybrid and fuel cell powertrains once Hyundai established a market presence.

Hyundai fuel cell - Santa Fe v Tucson

Santa Fe FCV Tucson FCV
Overall length/width/height4500/1820/1675mm4325/1795/1675mm
Vehicle weight1620kg1700kg
Fuel cell max. power75kW80kW
BatteryNiMH 288VLiPB 152V
Voltage160-270V DC250-460V DC
FuelHydrogen (5000psi)Hydrogen (5000psi)
Tank size72 litres152 litres
Driving range160km300km
Motor3-phase AC / 80kW3-phase AC / 65kW
Top speed124km/h150km/h
Fuel cell stack locationUnder bonnetUnder floor

Getz Hybrid specifications:

Engine: 1.4-litre ‘Alpha II’ four-cylinder
Electric motor: 12kW synchronous AC
Battery: 144V NiMH
Transmission: Continuously Variable (CVT)
0-100km/h: 12.3 seconds
Top speed: 187km/h
Fuel consumption: 5L/100km
Tank size: 45 litres
Driving range: 860km

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