Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell long-term test: the advantages of hydrogen fuel cells
Hyundai has produced a video that involves filling a giant polythene ball with air, topping it up with a mixture of particulate pollutants of various sizes
An air quality tests demonstrates the surprising benefits of hydrogen fuel cells on the environment
Chances are you know that a hydrogen fuel cell car produces only one tailpipe emission – water. And if you didn’t know, you soon would if you followed me in the ix35 FCV, with its side graphics and pertinent rear window statement, as well as an occasional but pronounced expulsion of water from the tailpipe.
But the ix35 also purifies the air as it travels along, collecting harmful particulates and trapping them as a byproduct of the process of generating electricity via the hydrogen fuel stack’s inner workings. Keep the filters, humidifier and fuel cell stack properly serviced, and you can have a positive impact on local air quality.
To demonstrate this, Hyundai has produced a video that involves filling a giant polythene ball with air, topping it up with a mixture of particulate pollutants of various sizes to match the equivalent of what a typical human would breathe in over 100 years and then sucking them through the ix35 FCV’s system.
The expelled air is pumped out of the tailpipe into another polythene ball, which the firm’s senior R&D representative then sticks his head in and inhales enthusiastically. Bar water vapour, it’s entirely clean – and further proof that environmentally friendly transport needn’t be a myth.
Price £53,105 (after £4500 gov’t grant) Price as tested £53,105 Economy na Faults None Expenses None Last seen 8.2.17
The limitation of hydrogen fuel cells
The Hyundai is a remarkable car thanks to its hydrogen fuel cell, yet it is positively unremarkable to live with. For all the technical wizardry going on out of sight, I am going from A to B with scarcely a care in the world.
With the refuelling infrastructure in its infancy, there is the issue of range anxiety, but even that’s hardly an issue. I can comfortably get 200 miles from a tank, so I haven’t ventured beyond the Heathrow and Teddington fuel stations in southwest London. But should I need to, existing fuelling stations make trips to the south coast, west Wales or as far north as Sheffield possible.
But there are barriers, because, as with battery-electric cars’ charging points, not all fuelling stations are run by the same people or on the same terms. You need to pre-plan journeys and make sure you’re registered to access the fuelling stations, and therein lies an infrastructure challenge that needs addressing. I’ve no doubt the issue is holding back EV adoption, and it has the same potential to restrict the uptake of hydrogen cars.
Likewise, I’ve had to adapt to how the ix35 uses fuel. As you’d expect, as speeds rise, so does consumption. In Eco mode at 60mph on the motorway, it uses fuel pretty much as indicated – a mile for a mile – but go faster and it drains exponentially. The same is true of other EVs and, in truth, fossil fuel cars. Mentally adjusting to this has taken time, but there’s an argument that all drivers would do well to learn the lesson of haste versus speed and the economical and environmental benefits of it.
Refuelling is now second nature. It takes about seven minutes from activating the security gates to leaving again and, clanking and chugging of the pump aside, it’s very similar to refuelling the old-school way, and the per-mile cost is working out at the equivalent of about 60mpg.
HYUNDAI IX35 FUEL CELL
Price £53,105 (after £4500 gov’t grant) Price as tested £53,105 Economy na Faults None Expenses None Last seen 18.1.17
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Source: Autocar Online