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Hyundai Starts Mass Producing Hydrogen Tucson IX

South Korean car manufacturer, Hyundai, has announced that it will start mass producing its hydrogen fuel cell car, the Tucson ix this week. The news comes at a time when the future of electric-petrol hybrid cars is coming under increased scrutiny as the most frugal petrol only vehicles begin to overtake hybrids for both fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions.

South Korean car manufacturer, Hyundai, has announced that it will start mass producing its hydrogen fuel cell car, the Tucson ix this week. The news comes at a time when the future of electric-petrol hybrid cars is coming under increased scrutiny as the most frugal petrol only vehicles begin to overtake hybrids for both fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions. Fuel cell vehicles work much like a battery by converting chemical energy from hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. Whereas a battery will eventually run out of power and need to be recharged however, the fuel cell can be constantly refuelled by adding more hydrogen.

 
It is this feature of the fuel cell which makes it extremely interesting as an energy source for cars. Battery powered electric cars available at the moment have a limited range after which they need long periods of recharging. This leads to 'range anxiety' amongst the drivers of such vehicles who fear that their cars will run out of power before they reach their destination, resulting in a costly tow to the nearest recharging point and an extended period without the use of their car. In contrast, the fuel cell vehicle can be recharged in less than 5 minutes and is in this respect much more akin to the fuelling regime of a standard petrol vehicle. 
 
Hyundai has said that it plans to sell just 1,000 of the vehicles globally by 2015, so 'mass production' is somewhat relative and the technology does have problems to overcome before wide adoption. The car is nevertheless an impressive milestone for the Korean manufacturer. In stark contrast to battery powered electric vehicles, the Tucson ix has a petrol-like range of 370 miles and accelerates to 60mph in a modest 12 seconds.
 
Like battery electric cars, cost is an initial obstacle with hydrogen fuel cell cars. The Tucson ix will initially cost around £130,000 to produce although Hyundai say this could drop to just over £30,000 by 2015. This is still substantially more than the £20,000 price of the standard petrol car. A further limitation is the current absence of a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. Even in the Tucson ix's home territory of South Korea there are only 13 hydrogen refuelling stations currently available and this will clearly have to be considerably expanded. Criticisms also remain about the energy required to provide the hydrogen for the vehicles. Even with these issues however, the prospect of a zero polluting car which emits only water vapour and has a similar range and refuelling time to that of petrol cars remains an intriguing prospect.

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