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Hyundai uncovers next-gen fuel-cell SUV

Cell mate: The unnamed SUV takes styling cues from the futuristic FE Fuel Cell concept that was revealed at this year’s Geneva motor show.

Unnamed fuel-cell SUV revealed in Seoul ahead of limited Aus arrival next year


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17 Aug 2017

HYUNDAI has ripped the covers off its next-generation hydrogen fuel-cell-powered SUV that will have a driving range of 800km, more than 200km more than the model it replaces.

The high-riding green machine – which is yet to be named while Hyundai uses the internal FE moniker for now – was revealed in pre-production guise at an event in South Korea today ahead of its roll out early next year.

The company has confirmed that it had two left-hand-drive prototypes of the new SUV in Australia last month to undergo cold-weather testing, with engineers from South Korea validating the car in the Snowy Mountains, NSW as part of global durability testing.

As previously reported, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) has already agreed to supply the ACT government with 20 examples of the new hydrogen SUV in late 2018 as part of the Hornsdale Windfarm Stage 3 project.

There is currently one ix35 Fuel Cell in Australia that Hyundai uses to promote its tech, and there is one hydrogen refuelling station in Australia based at HMCA’s headquarters in Macquarie Park, Sydney.

It is unclear if HMCA is planning a wider roll out of the new SUV in Australia beyond the 20 purchased by the ACT government.

The FE uses Hyundai’s fourth-generation fuel-cell technology and was developed according to four key pillars - efficiency, performance (maximum output), durability and tank storage density, according to the car-maker.

Engineers have made tweaks to the fuel-cell system in a bid to improve fuel-cell performance and reduce hydrogen consumption, ensuring the new model has an efficiency level of 60 per cent, which is a nine per cent increase over the outgoing ix35 Fuel Cell.

The major changes to the system have also resulted in a significant increase in driving range, which is now up to about 800km on a single charge according to European testing standards, up from 594km in the ix35 Fuel Cell.

Power is up by 20 per cent compared with the model it replaces, with 120kW on offer, while “highly durable catalyst technology” has meant the new SUV has greater longevity than the old one.

Hyundai says it has also improved the SUV’s cold start capability – fuel-cell vehicles have issues starting in below freezing temperatures – with enhanced components such as MEA (membrane electrode assembly) and bipolar plates ensuring it can still start even when the temperature is -30 degrees Celsius.

Tank storage density has also been given a boost, with three equally sized tanks in the new SUV, replacing the two different sized units in the ix35.

Hyundai says “world-class tank gravimetric capacity (hydrogen storage mass per tank weight)” was achieved thanks to an innovative plastic liner configuration and efficient layering pattern, which also reduced thickness.

The design was previewed by Hyundai’s FE Concept from this year’s Geneva motor show but loses the futuristic elements such as barely there headlights and pillar-less doors for the near-production model.

It borrows the split headlight look of the forthcoming Kona crossover, and Hyundai says the SUV builds on the concept’s design that was inspired by nature, specifically water, the vehicle’s only emission.

Hyundai has focused on aerodynamics with the unnamed SUV, with door handles that sit flush to the car, a wheel design that aims for low drag airflow, and other elements such as an air curtain and an air tunnel inside the D-pillar.

Inside the SUV is fitted with “industry leading” bio-materials with eco-friendly certification. It has a clean and simple design with few buttons and dials to ensure a minimal look, while a pair of screens run side by side housing the instrument cluster and infotainment controls.

The new SUV is one element in Hyundai’s “eco-vehicle development roadmap” that will see it introduce 31 eco-friendly models to various markets by 2020.

Hyundai’s strategy is to cover all eco bases and offer full electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles to its range over time.

Hyundai has confirmed that the expansion of its electrified range of models will include an EV version of its Kona SUV for launch in the first half of 2018 that will offer a driving range of 390km.

It will also include a Genesis EV model in 2021 and another long-range EV with a 500km range beyond 2021.

The company is also developing a dedicated architecture for its pure electric vehicles, allowing it to develop and produce “multiple models with longer driving ranges”.

Hyundai says it is further developing its FCEV technology in a bid to make it smaller and cheaper so it can apply it to smaller models, while a hydrogen-powered bus will be uncovered in the fourth quarter of this year.

“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 Hyundai Motor Group Eco Technology Center senior vice-president Lee Ki-sang. “Hyundai Motor will take lead in developing and producing green energy vehicles that would ultimately complement a near-zero emission society.”

The name of the new SUV, as well as details relating to the advanced driver assist technology, will be revealed at the CES tech show in Las Vegas in January next year.

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