The Hyundai Fuel Cell Alternative with UK Car Exporter MHH International
While all the fuss surrounding, for example, the great Tesla experiment and the international introduction of electric charging facilities on the roads of the world, hydrogen fuel cells have been quietly bubbling away (although not too much we hope) in the background and it is Korean brand Hyundai that seems to be leading the pack with this motive science. Now they’ve gone a stage further: autonomous driving, live, on public roads. This is the first time a ‘driverless’ fuel cell vehicle has taken to the highways.
A hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle is able to produce more than enough electricity to power the vehicles drive systems, through a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel cell stack. The only tail pipe emission is water vapour, making fuel cell vehicles the optimal model choice.
For this recently completed innovative road test a fleet of Hyundai’s next generation fuel cell electric vehicles have succeeded in completing a self-driven 118 mile journey from Seoul to Pyeongchang. This is the first time in the world that level 4 autonomous driving has been achieved with fuel cell electric vehicles.
Three Hyundai vehicles completed the journey, all based on NEXO, Hyundai’s next-generation fuel cell electric car which is scheduled to be released in Korea next month. All the test cars were equipped with level 4 self-driving and 5G network technology.
Fuel Cell Autonomy
Hyundai have previously only demonstrated autonomous driving on selected sections of Korean domestic roads and only at a limited speed. This time autonomous the test cars operated on public highways at speeds of up to 110 kph, the maximum speed allowed on public roads in Korea.
The company have revealed that the demonstration took place in Seoul at the beginning of February with the 'CRUISE' and 'SET' buttons being pressed on the autonomous-driving steering wheel of each vehicle, at which point the cars immediately switched to self-driving mode and began the 118 mile journey to Pyeongchang.
Entering the highway, the vehicles moved in response to the natural flow of traffic, executed lane changes, overtaking manoeuvres and even navigated toll gates using a wireless express way payment system, it seems. The cars featured a number of advanced technologies that enabled them to recognise surrounding vehicles more accurately and make better judgements at junctions and navigate through toll gates by accurately calculating the toll gate’s width and position.
The vehicles are also able to pinpoint their position on a map by using external sensors fitted for situations when the GPS signal was interrupted, such as going through underground tunnels.
The exterior and interior of the self-driving vehicles used for this demonstration look similar to Hyundai’s other mass-produced models but are installed with additional cameras and LIDARs (see diagram). Adding a small number of sensors to mass produced vehicles has enabled the realization of fully autonomous driving technology, bringing Hyundai closer to the commercialisation of autonomous cars.
The Car Itself
The NEXO has a target range of 500 miles on a single charge of hydrogen and takes only five minutes to refuel. That’s impressive and compares more than favourably with the range and charging time of battery cell EVs.
Utilising a 5G network the test vehicles are able to deliver five new advanced information technologies, all accessed through a user interface that provides an intuitive user experience.
The surprises keep on coming too. Getting in on the act now are the passengers riding in the rear seats who can use “Home Connect,” a car-to-home technology which enables the user to access and control the “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices installed in their smart home. Obviously, this technology will be region dependent as the car eventually gets distributed for sale worldwide. In tests passengers could view home camera images in real-time, control the lighting, remote door lock, control television, and even manage home energy systems.
As can be expected all the automotive science we take for granted now is on-board and Hyundai have announced plans to commercialise the driverless technology for fully autonomous driving by 2030.
There’s still a drawback though. Right now here in the UK there are only a handful of hydrogen charging stations. Producing the cars is one thing. Producing the infrastructure is quite another.
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