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UK to become major global hydrogen fuel cell market

Production of a first batch of ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) began on the same assembly line as its conventionally counterpart earlier this year, representing the first time that a hydrogen-powered electric vehicle has been series manufactured.

By the time its successor is ready for mass production in 2015, Hyundai will have built 1,000 ix35 FCEVs at its plant in Ulsan, South Korea, with the majority expected to be deployed on European fleets. Right-hand drive cars begin production later this year, and the first five are bound for fleet customers in London.

Hyundai UK chief executive officer Tony Whitehorn believes Britain will be a key market for the car, driven by carbon-based taxation and the new lower threshold for the London Congestion Charge. The majority will be leased to bring costs down, he said, with public sector organisations expected to take the first models and interest to widen as the infrastructure improves.

‘Sales will be predominantly in Europe. Germany has a better infrastructure than us, so will be more going there than anywhere else, but we’d like to be just behind,’ he said.

In preparation for the UK launch, Hyundai is working with other stakeholders and the Government to establish whether grants will be offered to incentivise early adopters, Whitehorn explained.

‘I think there are two things inhibiting it,’ he said. ‘One is refuelling stations, the second is cost – it’s a new technology so a lot more expensive. We don’t have prices yet but some have said they want one regardless of the cost – people who want to make an eco statement.'

Fuel cell vehicles use a chemical reaction similar to reverse electrolysis, combining hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, which powers an electric motor and with water vapour as the only by-product. It takes around three minutes to refuel an ix35 FCEV, offering a range of around 360 miles, and six hydrogen fuelling stations are planned for London in the near future to support the first vehicles.

Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.

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