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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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RE: I have a thought,..
By JediJeb on 5/26/2010 5:48:13 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. The thing is nothing will replace gasoline cars until someone starts to do it. Also hydrogen is not as unsafe as so many try to make it out to be. Hydrogen suffers from the Hindenburg just as Nuclear suffers from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. In the lab where I work we handle cylinders of compressed hydrogen every day without any problems, been doing it for 20 years now. I also know the fear of hydrogen embritlement is not as big a deal as some say either because we have had cylinders that have been in use for several years, the company refills them and recycles them many many times with no problems. Design a self sealing break away connector for a cylinder and you would have no problems, unless you drive off a cliff or get hit by a semi, but then you are going to have other problems than a fire to worry about.

I personally would have no fear of driving a hydrogen powered vehicle, or even refueling one. I would be more worried about driving an EV with lithium batteries actually since so many of those have caught fire in cellphones and laptops. Probably just as unreal for me to fear that as most others to fear hydrogen though.

One thing that could eventually make the hydrogen cars better in the long run would be the ability to have a way to do a quick refuel on the road if you run out of fuel. Service trucks could carry cylinders just like welding tanks to give you a quick shot of fuel. That would be really hard to do for full electric vehicles. Of course it would probably be a long time before car nuts would be able to do much modifications on these, but it would happen eventually :)

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