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Kia Borrego fuel cell prototype
Meanwhile, still working out hydrogen-related problems

Just when fully electric vehicles have become a mainstream reality and will be available before the year is up,  new advancements in hydrogen fuel cell technology are following closely behind. This is triggering Kia to declare their hopes of becoming the world leader in hydrogen vehicles as soon as 2015.

Later this year, Kia plans to sell their first hydrogen vehicles to research institutions and government fleets. As early as 2012, they hope to release these vehicles to the public, and by 2015 would like to have 10,000 fuel cell vehicles sold to consumers. Kia aims to reach these goals by continuing progress on vehicles like the Kia Borrego FCEV, a hydrogen SUV that can reach 60 mph in 12 seconds and has a top speed of 106 mph.  The vehicle is capable of covering 375 miles before needing to refuel. 

While this mission looks promising, considering the staff of just 150 engineers at Kia's Eco Tech Research Institute in Mabuk, Korea, there are still some issues that need to be ironed out before hydrogen vehicles can hit the market.

One major concern is the relatively nonexistent refueling infrastructure. Fuel companies are skeptical about investing in hydrogen fill stations when there are so few vehicles on the road. Although global demand for oil is expected to increase over the coming years and the cost of hydrogen will fall, making fuel cell vehicles that much more alluring to consumers. Also, SunHydro, the world's first chain of privately funded fueling stations that provide hydrogen, plans to transform Interstate 95 into a hydrogen highway.

Fortunately, some earlier hydrogen vehicle problems concerning cold starting and safety issues have been resolved. Kia ran several tests with varied temperatures from minus 40 degrees up to 70 degrees on water left in the fuel stack and front, side and rear impact tests as well as a vehicle fire test have been successfully conducted on hydrogen vehicles. 

Other issues still remain, though, including concerns about price and insurance. Kia has admitted that getting insurance on these vehicles would be "impossible" because so much about hydrogen vehicles are new and unknown. This is expected to change over the next few years as more technological advancements are made. Also, the cost of hydrogen vehicles would be high because fuel stacks are so expensive.

The year 2015 is a ways off and Kia plans to fix these hydrogen-related problems along the way, but it looks as though test drivers are already impressed with the hydrogen vehicles saying the Kia Borrego FCEV is "above all, a smooth, smooth ride."

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By vtohthree on 5/26/2010 4:04:11 PM , Rating: 2
Regardless of whether or not Hydrogen will be a feasible in the near future, at least somebody is making them available. This is the first step, then you have consumers buying them, then power companies get more serious about finding ways to supply the market demand.

So I don't see it as a bad thing that one company is starting to give some attention to the hydrogen market. If it fails, then it's Kia/Hyundai's loss, but still an attempt at being progressive in the future of automobiles.

P.S. Hyundai is the parent company of Kia, they took over several years back, and thats when Kia's basically became re badged clones of Hyundai Optima=Sonata in different sheet metal.

By mellomonk on 5/26/2010 6:06:18 PM , Rating: 2
The newer Kias are not exactly rebadgings of Hyundai products. They are both based on common platforms and technology, but Hyundai has made an effort to keep to quite unique and distinct in design and feel. Plus each has some unique packages, such as Kia's Soul and Borrego, and Hyudai's Genesis and Genesis Coupe.

Kia has come a long way in recent years

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