Perhaps Hyundai is not known for its alternative power cars, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Proof of this is the ix35 Fuel Cell model, which they began to develop in earnest back at the turn of the millennium, and which they can proudly note is one of the few series-production electric cars.
Our more persnickety readers might point out that it's juat small-scale production. Still, that doesn't change the fact that there are quite a few ix35 Fuel Cells driving around European cities, since a number of universities and government offices have been given them, for testing and promotional purposes.
Though the technology is new, it is not unknown: the hydrogen fuel cell is powered by an electric motor, which powers the front wheels. Unfortunately, there is no room inside the car for four-wheel drive and, at the moment, we have no information on whether this technology will be incorporated into the newer Tucson, since the ix35 Fuel Cell (which was introduced in 2012) remains in production. Hydrogen travels from the 5.6-kilogram tank to the fuel cell, which breaks it down into protons and electrons. The flow of electrons provides electricity, and the protons react with molecules in the air, generating heat and water. Via an inverter, the electricity is transmitted to the electric motor, and the gearbox then powers the front wheels.
The exhaust system emits only excess moisture. We can, therefore, say that the fuel cell car carries its own power station along, while releasing neither nasty CO2 nor toxins and carcinogenic material into our already over-burdened atmosphere. The feeling behind the wheel is the same as in classic (plug-in) electric cars: acceleration is constant, and the swing from the back will bring a smile to your face, even if the maximum speed is nothing to brag about to your friends at your local watering hole. However, in contrast to plug-in electric vehicles, the ix35 Fuel Cell has a range of 594 kilometers – and that, after only three minutes of charging! The biggest challenge, of course, is storing the hydrogen, since the tank must be both hermetically-sealed and rather robust. Hyundai solved this problem by means of a combination of aluminum alloy and a composite material, that also contains carbon fibers. The tank can withstand up to 700 bar of pressure and, for added safety, the car is equipped with four sensors that detect and warn of any possible hydrogen leak.
The advantages of this car are its high torque, quick charging, easy operation and smooth function. The disadvantages are a trunk that's 39 liters smaller, its greater mass (compared to the conventional two-liter gas ix35, it's about 200 kilograms heavier, primarily due to the lithium-ion batteries), it has a kit instead of the usual spare wheel, there is no possibility of all-wheel drive (where the propeller shaft should be, there are batteries and another tank), and the biggest handicap is that there are (still) rather few hydrogen filling stations around. We also shouldn't overlook the high price of the car – in Germany, the ix35 Fuel Cell will set you back a hefty 65,450 euros!
The ix35 Fuel Cell is already the fourth-generation Hyundai vehicle with fuel cells, and that's why we believe the technology is reliable. Consumption, which should be 9.5 grams of hydrogen per kilometer, or about a kilogram per 100 kilometers is, combined with the energy source, entirely comparable to that of gas or a gas engine, just that there are no nasty emissions. Nothing but water comes out of the exhaust!