ONE of the truly special interest cars at the recent Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival was Hyundai's ix35 Hydrogen Fuel Cell electric car.
Swapping a petrol tank for a hydrogen cylinder, an electric motor for a petrol unit and with a fuel cell – to convert the hydrogen into electricity – the very special ix35 showed that not only is the automotive future here, it also promises to be quite normal.
How normal? Well, the ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle's (FCEV) electric motor puts 100 kilowatts of power to the ground, has a range of around 550 kilometres, can be filled in about the same time it takes to fill a normal fuel tank with petrol and does not cost much more to fill.
The problem? There is only one ix35 in Australia, and it is a pure research and development tool for Hyundai Motor Company Australia.
That is the bad news. The good news is the company plans to have a series production FCV available for sale here by the end of 2018 and, in conjunction with market rival Toyota, is already talking to venture partners about establishing a strong refuelling network.
Currently, there is only one hydrogen fuelling station in Australia suitable for cars and it is at Hyundai's headquarters in Macquarie Park, near Sydney.
Despite the fact the cars are some two years away the company has had its first orders placed, with the government of the Australian Capital Territory confirming it will take 20 of the cars as part of its Renewable Transport Fuels Test Berth program.
The $23m Test Berth project, put together by partners Neoen, Megawatt Capital and Siemens, links with the ACT's Hornsdale Windfarm Stage 3 to provide renewable electricity to the Renewable Transport Fuels Test Berth which features a Siemens Sylizer System hydrogen refueller.
At full capacity the refueller will be able to provide fuel-grade hydrogen gas for more than 1000 FCEVs travelling an average of 14,000 kilometres a year and will do that without using any fossil fuels.
The hydrogen cars that will form the basis of the project will be next-generation FCEVs, which will replace the current ix35 Fuel Cell, the world's first mass-produced, hydrogen-powered vehicle.
Hyundai Motor Company Australia chief executive officer, Charlie Kim, said the company commends the vision and ambition of everyone responsible for the Renewable Transport Fuels Test Birth and Hornsdale Wind Farm Stage 3.
"We hope this brilliant project inspires others to see the potential of hydrogen as a future fuel for our cars. This first small step toward a zero-emissions transport solution for Australia is very significant and we are proud to be involved," Mr Kim said.
Partners in the project, Neoen and Megawatt Capital, are heavily involved with renewable energy. Neoen is an independent power producer, generating electricity from renewable sources including solar, wind and biomass while Megawatt Capital is a specialist renewable energy investor and adviser.
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