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Kia pushing for hydrogen power in Australia

New for old: Kia has already dipped its toe in to hydrogen fuel-cell tech with the Borrego/Mohave FCEV that was used in trails in Korea and the US back in 2010.

Hydrogen fuel-cell the preferred alternative technology for Kia Motors Australia

25 Jan 2016

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) is mulling the best strategy to introduce alternative powertrain technology to its line-up, with the company's local boss declaring a preference for hydrogen fuel-cell power.

The car-maker's parent company, Hyundai Motor Group, has developed a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain that is currently in service in the ix35 Fuel Cell model that sells in limited numbers in parts of the United States and Europe.

Late last year Kia announced plans to increase its eco-car line-up from four to 11 models by 2020, kicking off with the forthcoming Niro crossover that will be built using the company's first “dedicated eco-car platform” and using a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain.

Kia also announced plans to mass-produce a new fuel-cell vehicle for global markets, with a target of building 1000 units per year that is expected to rise as demand for the alternative technology increases.

In Australia, Kia is without an alternative powertrain option, with the car-maker passing on the Optima Hybrid due to expected low take-up, while announcing in November that it had “no plans for hybrids or full electrics at this stage”.

Speaking at the Sportage media launch in Ballarat, Victoria last week, KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith said he believes the company will eventually introduce alternative powertrains in Australia, and said changes in legislation could help push that along.

“I think we will. Two things. One is I think every automotive organisation in the world is obliged environmentally to do something, and I think we are,” he said.

“Secondly, as government legislation tightens over a five, 10-year period, I think you’ll see these cars become more popular and more market-acceptable.”

Mr Meredith expressed his desire for wider adoption of hydrogen fuel-cell technology over battery electric powertrains, but admitted that it would take time.

“My wish would be fuel-cell technology because I believe the Group is well advanced in that area. It is a bit like the VHS-Beta argument. Personally, I would like to see that fuel-cell technology. That is probably a step or two away.”

Hyundai Motor Company Australia and Toyota Australia have brought fuel-cell models to Australia for marketing and display purposes, with both companies pushing the federal government to introduce incentives that could help make purchasing an eco-car easier and more appealing to consumers.

Kia is not new to hydrogen power, having built a fleet of Borrego FCEV SUVs in 2010 for testing in South Korea and the US.

When asked if KMAu was having conversations internally about the future of alternative powertrains, Mr Meredith said the company was investigating its options.

“We have and will continue to look at the options. Sometimes it’s good to follow and sometimes it's good to be ahead of the curve. We will certainly look at every opportunity in those areas.

“I think there are three drivers – one will be environmentally, secondly legislation and third cost.”

Mr Meredith said he was “convinced that there will be” moves by the federal government to make green technology more accessible, despite no current commitment from the Coalition government to introduce incentive programs.

He added that there is merit in being first to market with green technology.

“I think we would look really seriously at it. As we build our credentials as a brand, you’ve got to look at those things.”

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