Hydrogen fuel cell technology might finally widespread

Hyundai IONIQ car technology– ix35 fuel cell patent– has been bought by plenty of automakers.

6/7/16 5:00 am chumakdenis 1

The attempt of Japanese automakers (Hyundai and Toyota in particular) to adopt fuel cell technology looked more like tilting at windmills than a real attempt to do something – we were almost sure that this technology will never make it.

However, a true miracle has happened and plenty of automakers have showed their interest in hydrogen energy.

Moreover, not only did they show it, but also bought ix35 patent –I guess that’s what we call silver linings.

So, Hyundai has kind of saved its fuel cell vehicle and latest developments regarding this technology –kudos for that.

Nonetheless, there is still one question that bothers me a lot: what is so special about this technology?

And why on Earth moguls like VW have bought Hyundai’s patent?

Well, let’s figure it out.

Hyundai IONIQ

To understand it,we have to delve into IONIQ itself.

So,let's begin our journey.

From the inside and outside  the ix35 is completely conventional, down to the standard-issue auto box shift lever. Under the skin, however, it is completely new.

The fuel, compressed hydrogen at a pressure of 700 bar, is housed in two gas cylinders in place of a conventional petrol tank – a smaller 40-liter unit in front of the rear axle and a 104-liter tank behind the rear axle.

Battery pack

6124.jpgA fuel cell is mounted under the hood.

The hybrid battery packs are located under the vehicle, positioned in the centre for weight distribution.

Inside the fuel cell, an anode and cathode sandwich, and a polymer electrolyte membrane.

When the hydrogen flows over the anode, it splits into hydrogen protons and electrons.

The polymer electrolyte membrane only allows the protons to pass through. The electrons travel to an external circuit which operates the motor.

 

At the cathode, electrons and protons react with oxygen from the air to create water as a by-product of the process.

Hyundai claims the driving range is 369 miles on a tank of gas.

The compact SUV uses 0.95kg of hydrogen to cover 62 miles and has a maximum tank capacity of 5.64 kg of gas. The front wheels are driven by a 65kW  electric motor, through a single speed reducer gear.

Under the floor is a 24kW battery developed by LG Chemicals, which is used primarily to assist the fuel cell stack when power demand is at its greatest. The battery pack is also used to ‘harvest’ waste energy from the regenerative braking system.

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1) The hydrogen stored in the tank is supplied to the fuel cell stack;

2) Inflow of air is supplied to the fuel cell stack;

3) The reaction of air and hydrogen in the fuel cell stack generates electricity and water;

4) The electricity generated is supplied to the motor and battery.

Differences with an electric version 

There are a few subtle differences.

Up at the front is a grille that's bespoke on the Fuel Cell variant of the ix35. The grille is functional and there are two cooling radiators behind it, one to cool the stack, the other is for the traditional systems such as air conditioning and so on.

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A blue-tinged Hyundai emblem provides another hint that this is no ordinary ix35. On the instrumentation panel, the dial on the left indicates ‘charge’ and ‘power’ to show when you’re expending the available electricity and when you’re recouping it through regenerative braking.

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The right-hand dial shows your speed and remaining fuel level. There’s no noise on start-up, or thereafter, and step off from a standstill is impressively brisk, with 221lb ft of torque instantly on tap.

Not that the performance is barnstorming; at more than 100kg heavier than a regular ix35, it is more than 1.5sec slower than a 2.0-litre diesel to 62mph, and maxes out at about 100mph.

Still, it feels perfectly comfortable to drive in the urban environment for which it is mainly intended.

In contrast, the Nissan Leaf - the current version of the car - will manage just 100 miles before its battery is exhausted.

Thanks to their forever depleting batteries, running the ancillary electrical devices on most electric vehicles is effectively like shooting a hole in your fuel tank, but the FC’s onboard generator makes running the air conditioning full blast seem relatively painless.

Fuel filler

6120.jpgThe fuel filler has a very thin, needle-type nozzle, so there’s no prospect of absent-mindedly pumping 30 litres of derv into your tank.Cleverly, the filler also includes infra-red technology to enable it to 'communicate' with the hydrogen fuel pump so that rate of flow and pressure can be regulated. The toughened hydrogen tanks impinge slightly on available luggage space, which is 436 litres with the rear seats up compared with the 591 litres of the regular crossover.

Cleverly, the filler also includes infra-red technology to enable it to 'communicate' with the hydrogen fuel pump so that rate of flow and pressure can be regulated. The toughened hydrogen tanks impinge slightly on available luggage space, which is 436 litres with the rear seats up compared with the 591 litres of the regular crossover.

Test drive

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On the short drive around California, the ix35 rode extremely well and was particularly good at swallowing speed bumps. The car’s poise is undoubtedly helped by the battery pack and gas tanks mounted low down under the floorpan.

Next-gen ix35 is coming

Sales for the next-gen ix 35 will begin in around October this year, with the plug-in version to follow towards the end of the second quarter in 2017.

Specs are unknown yet, but some facts we have managed to 'dig out.'

For instance, we know that an entry-level, bare-spec model will be omitted because, Hyundai said, its customers have shown they want more equipment.

Also, we know that the all-new ix35 will come with a touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

There will also be a choice of 15in or 17in wheels for the car.

Well, sounds like a great car is coming.

Let's wish Hyundai good luck and wait more new cars from them.

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