Fuel cells, coupes and crossover wagons…
The world debut of the i-Blue fuel cell concept headed up a trio of key Hyundai products at the Frankfurt show stand. ‘Spare me another fuel cell concept’ I can almost hear you thinking, but don’t switch off. This one is no theoretical eco powerplant for a fantasy concept but a serious design showcase tailor-made for Hyundai’s very real third-generation fuel cell technology (the previous two versions were in special versions of the bigger Santa Fe and Tucson).
So why is the i-Blue special?
It’s Hyundai’s first ever model designed from the ground-up to incorporate fuel cell technology. Powered by 100kW and a fuel cell stack with compressed hydrogen in a 115-litre tank, its range is about 375 miles and top speed 100mph-plus. Hyundai says by storing the fuel cell stack under the floor rather than in the engine compartment, like in the second-generation Tucson Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), the car gains an ideal 50:50 weight distribution. The Korean firm also says it drives ‘almost noiselessly’ and has an acceleration that will “delight passionate drivers.” Okay.
It looks pretty sharp inside and out too
Yep, no dull test mule this. The 2+2 crossover has the air of a futuristic Mercedes R-class on the outside, if a bit chunkier and more compact in length and with more dynamic diagonal different-height feature lines: low at the front and high at the back fading to nothing in the middle. The inside offers shades of the striking Qarmaq concept from the 2007 Geneva show with liberal use of flowing shapes, futuristic plastics plus an aircraft-style steering wheel with touch-scroll control pads.
But when could such a machine be affordable and viable?
Ahh, the big fuel cell ‘when’ question. Hyundai is now on version three and officials state that the firm is 'making tremendous efforts to reach the stage of mass production between 2012 and 2015'.
What can we expect sooner?
Not nearly as green but set to be more fun is the next Hyundai Coupe on sale in 2009. It takes many exterior design cues from the Veloster concept that made its European debut at Frankfurt (and was shown first at the Seoul motor show earlier this year). An insider who has seen the final production car says the concept represents 50-60 percent of the European version that could be launched at next summer’s London Motor Show. The concept’s upscale interior will change most, but the whole package will move upmarket. Offered only with a 3.0-litre petrol engine, the car will be bigger, smarter and priced accordingly to take on the Nissan 350Z – so towards £25,000.
Hey, don’t forget the i30 Crossover wagon
Duller but sooner still, comes the last of the Frankfurt unveils – the i30 Crossover wagon or CW early in 2008. Essentially a Golf estate-class car, it loses some of the concave rear-end 1-series charm of the i30 hatch but offers the same smart cabin and high spec with a spacious 415-1395-litre luggage space. Strictly for value-focused load-luggers this one.