As a result, we’d scarcely be more excited had a LaFerrari joined our fleet. What the Hyundai lacks in hypercar looks and performance, it makes up for in the truly futuristic technology that is housed towards the rear of the car and under the bonnet. At the back – fore and aft of the rear axle – sit two gas cylinders in place of a conventional petrol tank, home to 144 litres of compressed hydrogen when full. To the front sits a fuel cell, and the hybrid battery packs are located under the vehicle.
The cleverest bit is under the bonnet, and as I type this description, I have my fingers crossed that I was concentrating while studying for my GCSEs. Inside the fuel cell sits an anode, a cathode and a polymer electrolyte membrane. When the hydrogen flows over the anode, it splits into hydrogen protons and electrons. The polymer electrolyte membrane allows only the protons to pass through. The electrons travel to an external circuit that operates the motor. At the cathode, electrons and protons react with oxygen from the air to create water – the only tailpipe emission from the process, and famously pure enough to drink. The batteries are mainly there to boost energy at periods of peak demand.
My cause is greatly helped by the location of one of the country’s few hydrogen refuelling stations in Teddington, Middlesex, down the road from where Autocar is based. However, the infrastructure is improving and the car’s realistic range of 280 miles between fill-ups (as opposed to the 369 miles Hyundai is forced to declare by governmental regulation) makes getting around pretty simple. While Land’s End to John O’Groats would be a challenge, it’s a blackspot in the north of England – after Sheffield – that is the major problem. From London, it shouldn’t be a problem to head south, east or west, or to get around if I can sneak it up into Scotland.
Planning will be key. If I want to visit my in-laws in Pembrokeshire, it should be possible, with refuelling stops on the M4 in Swindon and Swansea ensuring I can get around when I’m there and make it back again. I’m told London to Paris and back should be a doddle, too. I hope to test both. But it’ll mean signing up to the various fuel suppliers and learning the intricacies of their fuelling systems. To date, all have been simple to use but slightly different; such is the price of being a pioneer.
There’s little to no risk of being stranded, as long as I do plan well. With fewer than 100 hydrogen-powered cars on UK roads and a refill taking around three minutes, there’s no threat of lengthy delays waiting for another car to move on so I can top up. To my mind, and writing as the owner of a Renault Zoe, the risk of finding all available charging points occupied is a bigger deterrent to long-distance travel in a batterypowered EV than any range anxiety.