Powering ahead with future fueld

On road: Hyundai ix35 fuel cell car at ITM Power's Sheffield centre.                                                                                                                            PICTURE DEAN ATKINS
On road: Hyundai ix35 fuel cell car at ITM Power's Sheffield centre. PICTURE DEAN ATKINS
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Forget heavy batteries that take half an hour to charge and won’t take you more than 30 miles. The future fuel for cars and vans is hydrogen.

The Germans have already wised up to that fact. They plan to roll out a network of hydrogen filling stations by 2015 and already have agreements with a number of manufacturers to have fuel cell powered electric cars ready for sale.

Among them is Hyundai, which has been using ITM Power’s HFuel mobile high pressure refuelling unit to keep its ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) topped up as they travels around showing just how hydrogen powered vehicles can perform.

The ix35 sports utility vehicle uses a fuel cell to generate electricity to run two electric motors that power the front wheels and can take you from 0 to 60mph in 12 seconds.

Just over 5kg of hydrogen can be pumped into the vehicle’s fuel tank in around three minutes, giving the 135 bhp vehicle a range of more than 300 miles.

The ix35 also features regenerative breaking which recovers energy whenever the breaks are used, storing it in a battery to be fed back into the motors under acceleration - and causing the power dial to dip below zero, into the green, showing you area recharging the road equivalent of Formula 1’s KERS - Kinetic Energy Recovery System.

Electric motors mean the ix35 doesn’t need any gears, although it does have the sort of shift lever you find in an automatic, so that you can put the vehicle into Reverse and Park when you leave it.

With no engine noise to alert pedestrians, the ix35 incorporates a “Virtual Engine Sound Simulator” which operates below 20 miles an hour, but, above that, all you can hear is the sound of the tyres on the road and the air passing over the vehicle.

Hyundai is planning to build 1,000 cars this year and up that 10,000 in 2013.

Key markets for Hyundai include Europe and the US, but, says ITM Power’s Barry Cunliffe, its South Korean home market is also important.

“Hyundai is a bit of a dark horse, but South Korea has an abundance of hydrogen gas and a few months ago they announced they were building a new town that would run on hydrogen.”

The South Korean firm is one of a number using ITM’s technology. ITM has also provided refuelling rigs for Honda’s first FCEV, the Clarity and, as a trial, for municipal buses in Hanover, which are normally refuelled from a liquid hydrogen rig.