Kia to Produce Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

Adapted from NREL, by Heather Lammers

Cars that plug into solar panels for electricity or run on hydrogen may sound like something found only on the pages of science fiction novels, but engineers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) are driving these futuristic vehicles today.

Recently, NREL engineers spent six weeks kicking the tires on a Kia Borrego Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV).

In these testing arrangements, NREL engineers collect real-world data on vehicles to evaluate their performance. The research findings are made available to vehicle manufacturers along with the DOE and other national labs.

Kia is scaling up facilities to support FCEV production in 2014-2015, and several other car companies are actively pursuing adding hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to their consumer offerings.

"Part of this step is to demonstrate the power train technology to make sure it works in all different climates and that they haven’t overlooked anything," says NREL Senior Engineer Keith Wipke. 

The Kia FCEV has a 115 kw-fuel cell stack, which is housed under the floor of the passenger compartment. Rather than using gasoline or electricity, the SUV-sized vehicle is fueled with compressed hydrogen and has a range of 466 miles per fill-up,  the equivalent of 59 mpg. The demonstration vehicle has a 110 kw traction motor and 100 kw ultracpacitor rather than a battery.

"This vehicle is unique because it has something I’ve never experienced, which is an ultracapacitor instead of a battery," Wipke says. "It seems to be very powerful, with great pick up."

Wipke sees hydrogen fuel cell vehicles potentially appealing to people who can’t fully meet their needs with battery electric cars, but who want a low carbon footprint.

"One of the key things about the impact of hydrogen technology is that these are full-function vehicles with no limitations on range or refueling rate so they are a direct replacement for any vehicle," Wipke says. "For instance, if you drive a full sized SUV and pull a boat up into the mountains, you can do that with this technology and you can’t with current battery-only vehicles, which are more geared toward city driving."

NREL engineers can achieve a truly zero emissions fuel cycle for Kia FCEV’s hydrogen fuel. They fueled the Borrego with hydrogen made from wind and solar energy as part of the Wind2H2 project, where wind turbines and solar panels are linked to electrolyzers, which pass the renewably-generated electricity through water to split it into hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen can then be stored and used later to generate electricity from a fuel cell.

NREL also has ongoing agreements with Toyota and Mitsubishi to test a plug-in Prius and a Mitsubishi i MiEV electric vehicle. Researchers also tested a Mercedes-Benz A-Class F-Cell vehicle and are actively looking to expand the testing process with other automakers.

 

Learn more about NREL’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells program:

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Comments on “Kia to Produce Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles”

  1. Tom Cat

    The future is here in Hydrogen fuel cells. This makes repalcement for oil fuels and battery run autos. I see no limit to the tecknowiedge.

    Reply

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