Dreamers for Fuel Cell Cars
Principal Research Engineer of Fuel Cell Development Team, Hyundai Motor
The movie ``Dreamer'' starring Kurt Russell portrays a father trying to rehabilitate an injured horse. He spends all the money he has to nurse the horse back to full strength field, and in a typical Hollywood happily ever after ending, the horse wins a prestigious horse race.
In real life, however, this type of dramatic happy-ending story rarely happens. Similarly, to most people in the real world the idea that a vehicle can be powered using hydrogen is still too futuristic. Yes, it is very ``Copernican.'' Furthermore, there's no one who can give a clear answer to the simple question: when we will be able to drive hydrogen fuel cell cars on the road.
Just 120 years ago, the two great engineering masters Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz put their ideas into practice. In 1885 and the following year, their ``dream'' invention of a practical gasoline vehicle was put into practice, and it took as long as 23 years before Henry Ford manufactured ``Model T,'' the first mass-produced gasoline engine vehicle. In such spirit are fuel cell car developers working nowadays.!
Nine years has passed since Hyundai Motor announced its fuel cell car development project. In the meantime, we've realized how much effort this creative work requires and how difficult it is to be a pioneer. As a result of endless struggles against numerous barriers, our fuel cell cars are now recognized as ``one of the best'' in this industry.
Hyundai Motor started its full scale fuel cell vehicle development by participating in the ``CaFCP (California Fuel Cell Partnership)'' in 2000 and announced its first fuel cell vehicle, based on a Santa Fe model, to the public in November, 2000.
In April, 2004, Hyundai Motor proved its capability by being chosen as a fuel cell vehicle operator for a U.S. DOE funded fleet demonstration program, and by 2009 will have operated 30 Tucson and Sportage FCEVs.
The Tuscon FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) is equipped with a fuel cell stack in its engine compartment and has 80 kW power, 5 kW bigger than the previous version installed in Santa Fe. The vehicle can be driven in sub-zero temperatures and has proved to be a stepping-stone in development of this technology.
Hyundai Motor recently unveiled a new FCEV concept car, ``i-Blue,'' at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The all-new i-Blue platform is tailored to incorporate Hyundai's third-generation fuel cell technology. The i-Blue is powered by a 100 kW fuel cell stack, and is capable of running more than 600 km per fueling. The vehicle has a maximum speed of 165 km/h.
Oil prices have been skyrocketing and are now around $100 a barrel. We now need to think of the next generation and and find a way to ``rehabilitate'' the world. No one would disagree that FCEVs provide a key answer to this situation, at least from an environmental standpoint, hence the assignment of the developers of this new technology to make FCEVs commercially available.
I believe that FCEVs will lead the automotive industry for the next generation. For this to be realized, however, this is not something ``our own league'' can do on its own.
In the movie I mentioned earlier, the money spent on buying the horse back did not come from the father. The grandfather played by Chris Christopherson gave $20,000 to his son, and it finally made his grand daughter's dream come true.
To successfully develop FCEVs we need more dreamers. When many people dream on the same pillow, the dream becomes a reality.