Monday, January 29, 2007

Hyundai's Fuel Cell Progress

Hyundai's Fuel Cell Progress

Publication Date:28-January-2007
09:30 AM US Eastern Timezone
Source:Korean Herald

Below is an excerpt from Korean Herald Report-Technology gives Hyundai Motor the edge-Carmaker shows off advanced engine, chassis module and alternative transmissions

Development of alternative powertrains such as fuel-efficient diesels, gasoline-electric hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells is a shared task for all global automakers.

Although Japan's Toyota Motors and Honda Motor successfully marketed hybrids, many European carmakers such as Volkswagen chose to focus on developing better internal combustion engines. General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and BMW plan to unveil a hybrid in the near-term while concentrating on fuel-cells which are anticipated to be the ultimate future of automobiles.

"There are three main objectives in the research & development of fuel-cell systems - reduce cost, enhance durability and make it possible to start the car at freezing temperatures," said Kim Se-hoon, Hyundai's senior research engineer of fuel cells.

Water produced from a fuel-cell auto which runs on electricity generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen freezes at below-zero temperatures, making it hard to start the car.

Hyundai's progress in hydrogen fuel-cell technology was shown in its self-developed fuel cell stacks used in buses and cars currently under test operation. The carmaker and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy began the three-year monitoring project of the nation's first hydrogen fuel-cell bus in late November last year to test the environment-friendliness, reliability and durability of the fuel cell system. Results of the test will be reflected in product development and establishment of infrastructure required for commercialization.

When charged with 40 kilograms of hydrogen, the new bus with a 160-kilowatt fuel-cell stack can run 300 kilometers and is twice as fuel efficient as diesel versions currently on the roads, Hyundai Motor said. It still needs to be improved so it can start at temperatures below minus 20 degrees Celsius. The production cost, which is more than 20 times higher than that for ordinary buses, should also be gradually lowered, the ministry said.

The project is aimed at raising the fuel-cell system output to 200 kilowatts, the share of Korean-made components to 70 percent and durability range to 5,000 hours by 2008. According to GM, hydrogen fuel cell cars will cost the same as their gasoline counterparts once they reach a production volume of 1 million units.

"Lack of scale is the primary reason for the high costs of fuel cell vehicles," said Larry Burns, GM vice president of R&D and strategic planning.

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