Following on from its first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle deliveries in the U.S. back in May this year, South-Korean automaker Hyundai has brought hydrogen fuel cell technology to the UK with the official arrival of the first six Hyundai iX35 FCV SUVs it has imported into the island nation.
Essentially a European rebadged version of the Hyundai Tucson FCV we’ve seen on the roads of California, the Hyundai iX35 is powered by a 100 kilowatt proton exchange membrane hydrogen fuel cell and 100 kilowatt electric motor, delivering a 0-62 mph time of around 12.5 seconds and an estimated range of around 265 miles from 12.4 pounds of pressurised hydrogen.
But while the first six Hyundai iX35 FCV cars are now on the roads of the UK with deliveries due in the coming weeks, those who put down an as yet undisclosed monthly fee for the privilege of leasing a Hyundai iX35 FCV will find themselves struggling to find convenient places to refuel, especially if they venture far from its capital city London.
Although the UK government has just announced a massive £11 million in funding to help support the growth of hydrogen fuel cell transportation in the UK, there are only a handful of hydrogen fuel filling stations in the entire country.
Of those we’ve been able to identify, there are a few in the greater London area — including one at Heathrow airport and one at Temple Mills bus station in the east end of London — as well as a handful elsewhere in the country. While Hyundai says there are plans afoot to increase the number of hydrogen fuel filling stations in time for the next wave of iX35 FCV deliveries in early 2015, neither of the two hydrogen fuel filling stations we could identify outside of London — one on campus at Honda’s Swindon manufacturing plant south west of London and one at the high-security Millbrook test facility north of London — are what we’d call ‘consumer friendly.’
Nevertheless, we were told, anyone driving a Hyundai iX35 FCV could, should they need to, refuel at both locations today. At least, we presume, until more conventional filling stations come on line.
It’s worth noting that unlike the U.S. market Hyundai Tucson FCV, no official prices have been set yet for leasing of the iX35 FCV in the UK. That, we were told by a Hyundai representative, is still a confidential figure between Hyundai and its lease customers, indicating that perhaps final public leasing figures haven’t been set yet.
But at $499 per month for 36 months with $2,999 at signing for those in the Los Angeles and Orange County launch markets for the Hyundai Tucson FCV in the U.S., we’re guessing that British customers will be looking to pay a lease fee of somewhere between £300 and £500 per month for the privilege here, depending on governmental subsidies of course.
As for fuel? When we brought up the topic of fuel with a Hyundai representative, we were told initial fuelling costs would be higher than gasoline due to the high cost of infrastructure installation. But, we were assured, Hyundai believed fuel prices would be ‘comparable’ with gasoline in the long term.
Here at Transport Evolved, we’re glad to see another alternative fuelled, zero emission vehicle entering the UK market alongside more established vehicles. And if the Hyundai iX35 helps get more people out of more polluting forms of transport and into lower-emission vehicles, we’re happy to welcome it into the future car marketplace.
But unlike electric cars — which can be refuelled from any domestic power outlet when there’s no official charging infrastructure nearby — the total absence of any nationwide hydrogen refuelling network makes us wonder just how useful a hydrogen fuel car is if you’re unable to make trips more than a few hundred miles from home without needing a specialist refuelling station.
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