Hyundai plans fuel cell electric vehicle for 2012

October 28 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Transportation   Year: 2011   Rating: 3

CleanTech Group is reporting that Hyundai plans to sell commercial fuel cell electric cars in 2012 (not shown). The South Korean company is taking a bold step in anticipation that the future of electric vehicles will require tight integration of batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.

Electric Vehicle Roadmap includes Fuel cells
The key to commercializing electric vehicles is to develop advanced energy storage devices. Batteries appear to be good enough, but not a great long term platform for automobiles. We can also store electricity in the form of chemical bonds of hydrogen and as a physical charge inside capacitors. (Imagine lightning in a box!)

Electric vehicles are not iPods- and require very different energy storage and delivery systems to match the performance of combustion engines. The future of electric vehicles is likely to evolve around the tight integration of all three major energy storage systems.

Hyundai understands this long term focus on integrating battery and fuel cells and might be trying to position itself in this new era of electric vehicles.

Hyundai’s decision stands out from the string of recent announcements from GM, Nissan, Rennault, China’s BYD, India’s Tata who all plan to sell commercial all battery electric vehicles by 2011. GM, Honda and now Hyundai have all been clear that they are not likely to bet the farm on an all battery energy storage system given the cost and performance potential of fuel cells.

Where are we in the Hydrogen Fuel cell Hype Cycle?

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are electric cars. The electricity is stored in the form of chemical bonds of hydrogen then converted in electricity via a fuel cell.

Fuel cell vehicles were over hyped during the Dotcom Boom of the 1990s, before becoming the target of intense criticism as the technology failed to meet expectations. But research and commercialization has not stood still.

While it might seem ambitious to target 2012 for fuel cells, we must remember that only two years ago, lithium battery based electric cars were deemed ‘too far’ away. And now Detroit and the rest of the world is accelerating electric vehicles around incredible advances made in lithium batteries. Why not expect the same disruptive advances in nanostructured membranes and systems used in hydrogen fuel cells?

While most current media reports around hydrogen remain negative and filled with doubt, there are a number of ways to begin volume production sooner than anticipated. Skepticism is always healthy when thinking about alternative futures, but we must pay close attention to developments and update our energy roadmaps to better reflect performance trends related to hydrogen production and storage. Research and commercialization is not standing still and there is a very strong case to be made that the chemical bonds of hydrogen are a more plausible method for storing electricity than batteries. Hyundai seems to be taking a more optimistic outlook.

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Image credit: Memebox LLC / The Energy Roadmap
‘Skateboard Chassis’ Fuel cells mock up based on General Motors Autonomy concept car

Comment Thread (1 Response)

  1. I’ve always been optimistic about hydrogen fuel cells even when others have been way too cynical about them. The commoditization of hydrogen seems like a natural thing when looking for a fuel source whose output can be controlled and regulated (rather than pure electric vehicles).

    2012? That’s at best 3 and 1/4 years away.. I think this stuff will be ready by the middle of the next decade (2015ish). 2012 seems like a reasonable time frame for auto makers like Hyundai, and it will challenge American car makers to make more adjustments faster, even if it is just all hot air.

    Posted by: Covus   October 30, 2008
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