Prices have been announced today for Hyundai’s hydrogen fuel cell-powered ix35. Vaunted as the first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle to go on mainstream sale, it costs £53,105.
That figure’s helped by part-funding from the European HyFive project, a hydrogen fuel consortium of which Hyundai’s a member, which cuts around £15,000 from the price. Without taking that into account, the ix35 Fuel Cell would cost £67,985.
Hmm. That’s quite a lot of money for a Hyundai!
In fairness, they acknowledge that. Hyundai UK’s sustainable fuel development manager told us the figure announced today is a higher price point than his team would have preferred for the UK, citing the fleet-market hit petrol-electric hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s £39,999 post-grant price as a more ideal positioning.
But it’s early days for the ix35 Fuel Cell’s costly technology, and the price doesn’t yet include the UK plug-in grant because its criteria are changing. Once they’re finalised, the ix35 will slot into the most lenient zero-emissions category.
Hasn’t Hyundai been making this car for a while already?
The ix35 Fuel Cell has been racking up miles on the road around the world in the hands of trial customers since 2013. It’s now on its fourth-generation design, with a fifth gen already in development. At the moment it’s left-hand drive only, available in any colour you like as long as it’s white – the next generation will be available in right-hand drive.
It’s powered by a 134bhp electric motor, taking its energy from a 24kWh battery. That’s fed by a fuel-cell stack under the bonnet, with the storage tanks for the hydrogen positioned under the boot floor. They have a total storage volume of 5.6kg, allowing for a theoretical range of 369 miles from one fill.
A fully type-approved car, it exceeds all the current safety regulations for hydrogen propulsion. The forces required to pierce the hydrogen tanks would be unsurvivable in a traffic accident, claims Hyundai.
Where’s the hydrogen fuel infrastructure at now?
There are currently three public hydrogen filling stations in the UK (around 11 if you count non-public stations at universities and so on). As part of the HyFive project another three stations are planned. By the end of 2015 there are set to be five publicly accessible refuelling stations in London.
There’s a bit of a chicken/egg paradox at work at the moment, as large gas companies cite a need for more hydrogen cars on the road before committing to filling stations, while potential vehicle customers say they need infrastructure to be in place before they commit to a purchase.
Likely customers for the ix35 are companies with a vested interest in the technology succeeding, at first anyway, with a smaller percentage of early adopter retail buyers too.
What’s the Hyundai ix35 fuel cell car like to drive?
We’ve driven it recently, and the answer is ‘easy.’ It feels very much like any pure electric vehicle, with a smooth, quiet and linear response. Performance is entirely reasonable despite the car’s heft; it weighs around 1850kg, roughly 150kg heavier than a regular ix35. Top speed is 100mph and it cruises at 70mph without difficulty. You’d expect a range of 250 miles with a typical driving style, but potentially more than 400 if you really concentrated on driving gently. Only problem, for now, is finding somewhere to fill it up.