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Kia’s all-new FCEV platform makes European debut


Kia Motors Corporation is staging the European Premiere of its latest Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) platform at this week’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

The hydrogen-fuelled, electrically-driven FCEV platform, which was first revealed at the Seoul Motor Show earlier this year, represents the next step forwards in Kia’s continuing commitment to develop cleaner, greener production vehicles for the future. The all-new 4.6-metre long platform has a 2850 mm wheelbase and is designed to fit beneath an SUV-style vehicle. Propelled by three electric motors, Powered by a 100 kW Fuel Cell and fuelled by twin tanks storing hydrogen at 700 bar, the FCEV promises usable performance. Kia’s computer simulations indicate that clothed in a Sorento-type body, the new FCEV could accelerate to 100 kph in just 10 seconds, reach a top speed of 170 kph and achieve a 600 km range – all with zero emissions.

The new platform features a high-strength, light-weight ladder-frame chassis with (from front to rear) a radiator, transversely-mounted 100 kW (134 ps) electric motor (driving the front wheels), thermal management unit, humidifier, centrally located 100 kW fuel cell (using Metal Bipolar Plates), super capacitor, fuel processing system, twin 76-litre hydrogen tanks and a 20 kW (27 ps) electric motor in each rear wheel. Kia’s developmental engineers have endeavoured to retain the acclaimed driving dynamics of the brand’s regular gasoline models. Mounting the fuel cell and hydrogen tanks low down in the new vehicle platform provides FCEV with several dynamic benefits. The centre of gravity is unusually low for an SUV-style vehicle and the perfectly balanced weight distribution, 50/50% front/rear, together with the 4x4 drive system and wide, large diameter tyres on 18-inch wheels, delivers maximum traction with the road surface at all times. The Kia FCEV works by converting the chemical energy released during the oxidisation of hydrogen fuel into electrical energy. Electrons are separated from the protons of the Hydrogen atom at an electrolyte in the fuel cell, and are forced to flow through an electrical circuit, thereby producing an electric current which powers the motors in the vehicle.

Once this has occurred, the hydrogen protons and electrons re-combine, and oxygen is added from a separate system. The sole outputs of the fuel cell process are electricity and H2O (pure water), which means that the Kia FCEV gives out no harmful emissions whatsoever – only pure water vapour. What’s more, the new Kia FCEV is a highly efficient system, not only providing the vehicle with 100 kW (134 ps) of power, but also featuring the ability to start in extremely cold temperatures (down to – 30C) and an extended range (up to 600 km). While accomplishing good progress in terms of greener motoring, the new FCEV is very much a ‘real world’ solution to daily transport challenges – offering lively performance to match its commendably low emissions and fuel consumption figures. Over the last eight years, Kia’s Sportage FCEV programme has been dedicated to testing and developing real-world applications of fuel cell vehicles – and to promoting the commercialization of fuel cell technology and raising public awareness. Real-world testing of the Sportage FCEV fleet in Korea and across the United States has enabled Kia to analyse the practicality and effectiveness of both the fuel-cell platform and the associated infrastructure necessary to make fuel cell technology viable for everyday motoring.

In Korea, through its partnership with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, Kia has been operating a fleet of 34 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, which include SUV passenger cars and public buses, since August 2006. The current network of five hydrogen fuelling stations across the country will be joined by a further five stations in 2008, to expand utilisation of the fleet throughout the ongoing five-year evaluation project. The hydrogen fleet currently under evaluation in the United States comprises 32 vehicles, including 16 Sportage SUVs, operating throughout the states of California and Michigan, and has been running comprehensive daily testing activities since September 2004. Testing in both countries has resulted in several fresh developments now incorporated in the new FCEV platform shown at Frankfurt – including the ability to achieve cold-start at up to minus 30 degrees centigrade.