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Seoul show: Hyundai’s chic new fuel cell sedan

Slick sedan: Hyundai's Blue2 concept heralds a brave new hydrogen-powered automotive world.

Sleek Seoul concept previews Hyundai fuel cell tech and all-new i40 sedan

2 Apr 2011

HYUNDAI used its home motor show in Seoul this week to unwrap a sleek new sedan concept that could preview a chic new design language for the upcoming i40 sedan - or next-generation Genesis - that may be sold in Australia.

According to the Korean car-making giant, the slick four-door Blue2 show car - which could also herald the next-generation powertrain technology with which Hyundai hopes to win the race to build the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric production car – “shows a blueprint for future sedans”.

As we reported last week, while the five-door i40 wagon, which made its global debut at the Geneva motor show last month, will join the mid-size i45 sedan upon which it based on sale in Australia in November, Hyundai Motor Company Australia is also considering the yet-to-appear i40 sedan - which would be to the i45 what Honda’s Accord Euro is to the larger Accord.

Wearing a stylish new exterior design theme Hyundai dubs ‘intersected flow’ which is presumably a development – albeit a drastic one – of the ‘fluidic sculpture’ styling concept now worn by everything from the ix35, to the redesigned Accent and Elantra sedans and the all-new Veloster coupe, which are due on sale here in July, August and December respectively.

Of course, the YF-series i45 sedan and VF-series i40 wagon also wear fluidic sculpture clothing, so it remains to be seen whether the production i40 sedan will, as previously expected, take its design cues from the edgy i-flow sedan concept seen at last year’s Geneva show or this smoother Blue2 from the 2011 Seoul Auto Show.

1 center imageEither way, like the i40 wagon, which will command a marginal price premium over the i45 (from $29,590), the i40 sedan – which may be priced somewhere in between - is likely to come with a number of technologies that Hyundai has claimed will be first-in-class, as well as an efficient new 1.7-litre turbo-diesel engine.

While there is no sign of the five-door i40 Geneva concept’s active demist system that automatically detects and clears mist from the windscreen, the Blue2 show car features a “cluster ionizer” to freshen air in the cabin and antibacterial leather seats with leaf-shaped patterns.

It also eschews conventional side mirrors in favour of side and roof-mounted cameras, while the interior incorporates an asymmetric dashboard and an infotainment system operated via a motion-sensor operated mouse stick that recognises hand movements using sensors.

However, it is the propulsion system that lies beneath the smart new skin of the Blue2 - pronounced “blue squared” and derived from a combination of the umbrella name for the company’s sustainable mobility program, ‘Blue Drive’, and the number two from H2, the symbol for hydrogen gas - that is just as intriguing.

Naturally, Hyundai has revealed no production plans for the Blue2, which is its first sedan-style fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), and appears a long way away from releasing a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery-electric production vehicle in Australia – including the Toyota Camry Hybrid-rivalling petrol-electric i45/Sonata it launched at the 2010 New York show almost a year ago.

The company has, however, revealed its intention to launch its first production FCV in 2012 – three years ahead of the world’s number one and two auto-makers, Toyota and General Motors.

Honda pioneered the road-going FCEV with its FCX Clarity and Mercedes-Benz this week staged the Australian leg of a 30,000km global roadshow for its hydrogen-powered B-class-based F-Cell FCEV, 200 examples of which will be produced for lease in Germany and the US this year.

GM believes that by 2025 fuel cell cars will cost the same as comparable hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles, and that infrastructure will have improved to the point where hydrogen refuelling stations will be commonplace globally, starting with hydrogen-advanced regions such as Korea, Japan, Germany, Norway and California.

Meantime, Hyundai, which has built FCEVs for several years based on its superseded Tucson compact SUV (and the related Kia Sportage) and will produce a further 100 hydrogen-fuelled versions of its ix35 successor this year, says it can reduce the price gap between FCEVs and equivalent petrol-fuelled models by as early as 2020.

Technical detail on the Blue2 is scant, but the hydrogen-burning four-door is said to be powered by a 90kW, 1.65kW/L fuel stack that is said to be capable of returning fuel consumption of 2.8L/100km.

Aiding its efficiency are almost-obligatory low rolling resistance tyres on aerodynamic alloy wheels.

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