The ix35 FCEV is launched at Hyundai’s Macquarie Park headquarters. Left to right: Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane; Federal MP for Benelong, John Alexander; Hyundai CEO, Charlie Kim; and HMCA Product Planning Manager, Scott Nargar

The ix35 FCEV is launched at Hyundai’s Macquarie Park headquarters. Left to right: Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane; Federal MP for Benelong, John Alexander; Hyundai CEO, Charlie Kim; and HMCA Product Planning Manager, Scott Nargar.

For the past decade or so the world’s car companies have been searching for the automotive equivalent of the Holy Grail. A drivetrain that eliminates the use of fossil fuel and exhaust emissions but still provides acceptable on-road performance and driving range.

Two of the early Crusaders were Honda and Toyota who took the petrol/electric high ground with their Insight and Prius models. These reduced both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions but used a combination of petrol and batteries, both of which relied on fossil fuel. Performance was reasonable and driving range excellent.

Mitsubishi took a different route with its iMiEV, a pure electric car so no carbon emissions but still with a reliance on traditional energy sources to construct the batteries on which it relied totally for its propulsion. Instant torque was a big plus but that was offset by range limitations.

Now Hyundai has signalled its intentions with a preview of its ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), an SUV that relies entirely on hydrogen. While hydrogen-powered vehicles are not new – BMW Toyota, Honda and Mercedes-Benz are among a number of carmakers who have vehicles at various stages of development – Hyundai has taken the lead by claiming to be the first company to begin mass-production of a hydrogen-powered vehicle and the first hydrogen-powered car to be permanently imported into Australia. It’s built at Hyundai’s factory at Ulsan, South Korea.


As the name suggests the Hyundai ix35 FCEV is essentially an electric car, with the electricity supplied by a fuel cell stack. Hydrogen from a fuel tank at the rear of the vehicle is pumped to the front-mounted fuel cell where it combines with air to generate electricity. The electricity is supplied to an electric motor which powers the car. The only emission is water in the form of vapour via a rear exhaust pipe.

The hydrogen for the ix35 FCEV is currently made by natural gas reformation and supplied in bottled form and so does have involve carbon emissions, however Hyundai Australia is planning to install a solar-powered electrolyser unit next to the refuelling station at its Macquarie Park headquarters.

Like all EVs the ix35 Fuel Cell is all-but silent and, as a compact SUV, comes with the practicality and convenience that is proving so popular with Australian buyers.


We’ve yet to drive the ix35 FCEV but the numbers suggest that performance should be reasonable with maximum power of 100kW and an impressive 300 Nm of torque. The range limitation which is a downside of most EVs does not apply to the FCEV with an official maximum range of 594 km and a 700 km record set during testing in Europe. Having said that, the present scarcity of refuelling stations (there are 80 in Europe, 72 in the USA, 13 in Korea – and just that one in Australia) will require pre-planning for any long-distance trip.

Acceleration is listed at 12.5 seconds from standstill to 100 km/h with a maximum speed of 160 km/h.

The commercial launch of the Hyundai FCEV is still at least three years away at which time the next generation model will be produced in right-hand drive for the first time. In the meantime additional LHD vehicles will be imported for additional local testing and demonstration.


One of the keynote speakers at the official launch of the ix35 Fuel Cell at Hyundai Australia’s Sydney office was the Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane, who spoke in glowing terms of the advantages of the fuel cell vehicle but without actually offering any direct funding for the project.

On that subject, Hyundai Australia CEO, Charlie Kim, commented: “We are not a political entity, nor are we aligned with any political party. However, we have seen in other countries that governments play a crucial role in developing hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. To that end, HMCA’s Fuel Cell Team has visited Canberra on a number of occasions over the last two years to brief Federal Ministers about our hydrogen car. The reaction has been very positive.”

Let’s hope that current and future governments of all persuasions will finally see the light and use some of the savings from the end of local-production subsidies to channel them into projects such as fuel cell technology.

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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