HYUNDAI has taken the covers off a new hydrogen-powered SUV it claims can run up to 800km on a single tank of fuel.
The yet to be named model will replace the previous ix35 fuel-cell vehicle that is currently being trialled on Australian roads.
Hyundai engineers were in Australia last month to carry out cold-weather testing of two prototypes of the new car in the Snowy Mountains, while the ACT Government has committed to take 20 of the vehicles - and build a hydrogen refuelling station - for its Hornsdale Windfarm Project.
The cars are expected to be delivered late next year and will be supplied with green electricity from the wind farm. The ACT Government is also spending $55 million on a hydrogen electrolyser, which uses electricity to produce hydrogen.
The car industry is divided about the future of fuel-cell vehicles, with some makers saying the lack of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure means that plug-in battery powered EVs are a better way of replacing cars with internal combustion engines.
Tesla boss Elon Musk has called the technology "incredibly dumb” but others, including Toyota and Honda, are investing heavily in it. Toyota's Mirai and Honda's Clarity are already sold to private customers in California.
In Europe, BMW is rumoured to be planning to unveil a fuel-cell vehicle at next month's Frankfurt motor show.
Fuel-cell vehicles have a key advantage over the current crop of electric vehicles as they can be refuelled in minutes, as with a conventional car, while most EVs require several hours to recharge from a household power point. Fast-charging stations reduce the time but still take more than an hour for a full charge.
Hydrogen-fuelled cars also have greater range than plug-in EVs.
But the stumbling block remains refuelling stations. Australia has just one permanent station, built by Hyundai in Sydney to fuel development prototypes.
Hyundai claims its fourth-generation fuel cell improves on efficiency, range, performance and durability. The company says it has also improved the hydrogen storage in the vehicle.
Efficiency is claimed to be improved by roughly 10 per cent, while range increases by a third from the current claim of 594km.
Hyundai says the new model has 20 per cent better performance and improved cold-start ability. Cold starts have been problematic for fuel-cell vehicles but Hyundai claims the new model can start at minus 30.
The company says the new model will also be cheaper to produce, making it more attractive to buyers.
Hyundai will also continue to work on development of plug-in electric vehicles and hybrids as it introduces 31 "eco-friendly” models to global markets by 2020.
The company already sells a plug-in hybrid car, the Ioniq, and plans to launch an EV version of its Kona compact SUV, with a claimed range of 390km, in the first half of next year.
It plans to have a long-range EV that can travel 500km on a single charge by 2021.
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