From £53,1056
Extended UK drive of the fuel cell-powered ix35 reveals a car with plenty of promise even if our hydrogen infrastructure causes limitations

What is it?

Despite recently releasing the Tucson, Hyundai is continuing to build and sell this fuel cell-powered version of the outgoing ix35. While at first glance it may seem little different to regular versions of the small crossover, what’s under the skin could point towards the future of the motor car.

At its heart, the ix35 Fuel Cell is basically an electric vehicle. Up front is an electric motor that produces 134bhp, and there’s a battery under the floor. Unlike most EVs, however, you don’t plug this one into the mains.

That’s where the fuel cell comes in. The fuel cell is located under the bonnet and runs on hydrogen drawn from a couple of high-pressure tanks either side of the rear axle. But unlike in a conventional internal combustion engine, this fuel isn’t burnt.

Instead, inside the fuel cell the hydrogen is split into protons and electrons, with the latter forced around a circuit. This generates electricity that is sent to the drive motor. Spare energy is used to charge the battery pack for times when peak power is needed.

Once the electricity has been generated, the only waste products are heat and water that is so pure you can drink it. When you run out of hydrogen, you just refill the tanks - a process that takes around three minutes.

Externally, the only differences between this and a conventional ix35 are a blue-backed Hyundai badge, fuel cell badging at the rear and a different fuel filler cover. Inside, the changes are even harder to spot, limited to a different set of dials in front of the driver.

This is very much at odds with cars such as the Toyota Mirai and Honda FCV Clarity. They both shout about their eco-credentials externally and internally; by way of contrast, the Hyundai is almost trying to hide its high-tech innards. But do they hinder it on the road?

What's it like?

Despite the science-fiction underpinnings, the ix35 Fuel Cell is remarkably conventional to drive – assuming you’ve sampled an electric car previously.

From behind the wheel, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that you’re just in a remarkably quiet Hyundai SUV. Thumb the starter button and the instruments spring into life to reveal a conventional-looking fuel gauge with a handy range guide.

The rev counter is replaced by a dial that shows either power consumption or if energy recuperation when braking. Between the seats is a gearstick shared with the automatic ix35; slip this into Drive and you pull away with barely any noise. The worst you’ll get is a faint whine under hard acceleration.

Thanks to maximum torque being available from zero rpm, initial acceleration is far brisker than the 12.5sec 0-62mph time suggests. Thrust tails off noticeably after this point but the delivery stays smooth at all times. As with most electric cars, there’s only one gear in the transmission.

Thanks in part to a 100kg weight increase over regular versions of the ix35, the fuel cell variant can be painfully slow past 60mph. It will happily keep pace with motorway traffic but you can’t be afraid to lean on the throttle hard, although at this point you’ll watch your range tumble pretty quickly.

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You also feel the portliness of the car around corners. While there isn’t too much additional body roll due to so much of the extra mass being mounted low, Hyundai can’t change the laws of physics.

Direction changes feel ponderous, with the stability control kicking in early to try to prevent the nose from washing wide. There’s also very little in the way of feedback through the steering wheel.

Like most electric cars, you’re much better taking a relaxed approach with the ix35. Not only will smaller throttle openings preserve the range, but you also get to appreciate the exceedingly comfortable ride. Imperfections are soaked up without fuss, while bigger bumps are dealt with equally well.

As for the interior, you’d be hard pushed to notice you’re in anything but a normal ix35. This has both positive and negative points. The good news is that the cabin is for the most part spacious and not too bad to look at. It’s easy enough to get comfortable up front and you sit high up, with a commanding view of the road ahead.

The rear seats offer a decent amount of leg room, although the sloping roofline does eat into head room significantly. Where the ix35 does score over the Toyota Mirai, its rival fuel cell offering, is that it offers seating for five, not four. There won’t be masses of shoulder room but it’s good to have the ability to carry three in the back.

Those occupants should probably pack light however; one of the hydrogen tanks is under the boot floor and does impinge on load bay space. While a regular ix35 has 591 litres of storage space, the fuel cell model makes do with only 436 litres.

Unfortunately, while it may be well equipped, with heated leather seats, touchscreen sat-nav infotainment, climate control and other toys, you can’t get away from the fact that the ix35 is showing its age. This generation of Hyundai's crossover was originally launched back in 2009, and it shows.

There are far too many hard plastics around, while the overall design is dated. It’s a real shame Hyundai couldn’t have installed the fuel cell guts of this into the much fresher Tuscon.

Should I buy one?

There’s no doubting the ix35 fuel cell’s green credentials. Assuming you can source a supply of hydrogen that’s been produced cleanly, it’s theoretically possible for it to be a 100% zero-emission car in general use.

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Despite being a little on the slow side, there’s no doubt that it’ll do everything a petrol or diesel car can do. On a long run it kept at motorway speeds for miles on end and proved to be a relaxing and comfortable companion. As long as you don’t expect excitement, it’s a pleasant place to be.

Ignoring the dated cabin, there are two main things that may put you off. The first is the purchase price: even with a £5000 subsidy, the ix35 Fuel Cell costs just over £53,000. That’s Tesla Model S money.

Secondly, hydrogen may be the most abundant element in the known universe, but finding a filling station that stocks it isn’t so easy. Even including a couple that are due to open in 2016, there are still fewer than 10 in the UK. In conclusion, you really have to be committed to saving the environment to choose the ix35 Fuel Cell.

Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £53,105; Engine 100kW fuel cell stack & 24kW hybrid battery; Power 134bhp; Torque 221lb ft; 0-62mph 12.5sec; Top speed 100mph; Range 369 miles; Gearbox single-speed automatic; Kerb weight 1830kg; CO2 and tax band 0g/km, 0%

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xxxx 22 December 2015

still here

Don't worry there's plenty of stuff on over Christmas, if tv is your only friend. That and hounding me should keep you occupied
gigglebug 22 December 2015

5 whole day's to respond XXXX!!

xxxx wrote:

Don't worry there's plenty of stuff on over Christmas, if tv is your only friend. That and hounding me should keep you occupied

Well done XXXX!! It's only taken 5 days for you to produce a response that has neither a spelling mistake nor something that makes you look utterly stupid!! Mummy will be so proud of her little star!!

gigglebug 17 December 2015

Where are you XXXX??

Please say something else XXXX, there's nothing funny on TV tonight and I need something to laugh at!! I promise not to make you look stupid again, honest!!
xxxx 17 December 2015

Gigglebug, A Leaf is not classed as a large car

It's fantastic that you take everything out of context to dig your way out of holes. I mentioned autocar don't mention mpg figures because tou can use it as a measurement for costs, going on about American mpg figures is pointless to some degree because they use different measuring techniques, Toyota reckon it equates to about 60 mpg for the Mira by the time you do an official figure that'll probably be 55mpg so the running costs will be the same as a diesel, maybe more. I think you're still sore that the Panamera is being whipped by the Telsa! I tell you what if Hydrogen cars are out selling plug-ins by this time next year I'll stop posting else you will, deal. Either way no more of you attempted 'comical' comparasions about Hitler and Jews please!
gigglebug 17 December 2015

Back again with more stupidity!!

xxxx wrote:

It's fantastic that you take everything out of context to dig your way out of holes. I mentioned autocar don't mention mpg figures because tou can use it as a measurement for costs, going on about American mpg figures is pointless to some degree because they use different measuring techniques, Toyota reckon it equates to about 60 mpg for the Mira by the time you do an official figure that'll probably be 55mpg so the running costs will be the same as a diesel, maybe more. I think you're still sore that the Panamera is being whipped by the Telsa! I tell you what if Hydrogen cars are out selling plug-ins by this time next year I'll stop posting else you will, deal. Either way no more of you attempted 'comical' comparasions about Hitler and Jews please!

You really are very poor at everything you do aren't you XXXX. Exactly where do I suggest that the Leaf is a large car?? Go on, point it out!! Failed to read a post properly again have we XXXX?? You really are a very very stupid little person aren't you XXXX!!

gigglebug 17 December 2015

To quote you as your obviously too stupid to remember!!

xxxx wrote:

It's fantastic that you take everything out of context to dig your way out of holes. I mentioned autocar don't mention mpg figures because tou can use it as a measurement for costs, going on about American mpg figures is pointless to some degree because they use different measuring techniques, Toyota reckon it equates to about 60 mpg for the Mira by the time you do an official figure that'll probably be 55mpg so the running costs will be the same as a diesel, maybe more. I think you're still sore that the Panamera is being whipped by the Telsa! I tell you what if Hydrogen cars are out selling plug-ins by this time next year I'll stop posting else you will, deal. Either way no more of you attempted 'comical' comparasions about Hitler and Jews please!

xxxx
But best of all
15 December 2015
It's the only car for sale that has no mpg figures provided by the manufacturer AND CAR journalists seem to play along by not mentioning it.

Do you want backtrack now and admit that you suggested that it was the only car on sale that has no MPG figure provided by the manufacturer to which you were soundly proved wrong?? You really are very very stupid aren't you XXXX!!

gigglebug 17 December 2015

You are too stupid!!

xxxx wrote:

It's fantastic that you take everything out of context to dig your way out of holes. I mentioned autocar don't mention mpg figures because tou can use it as a measurement for costs, going on about American mpg figures is pointless to some degree because they use different measuring techniques, Toyota reckon it equates to about 60 mpg for the Mira by the time you do an official figure that'll probably be 55mpg so the running costs will be the same as a diesel, maybe more. I think you're still sore that the Panamera is being whipped by the Telsa! I tell you what if Hydrogen cars are out selling plug-ins by this time next year I'll stop posting else you will, deal. Either way no more of you attempted 'comical' comparasions about Hitler and Jews please!

Why would I be sore about the Tesla's sale figures?? I think it is a fabulous thing!! Unfortunately because your very, very stupid you automatically assume that anyone pulling you up on the very long, long list of stupid things you say means that they must be anti EV when in actual fact it's you and your utter stupidity people object too!!

gigglebug 17 December 2015

xxxx wrote: It's fantastic

xxxx wrote:

It's fantastic that you take everything out of context to dig your way out of holes. I mentioned autocar don't mention mpg figures because tou can use it as a measurement for costs, going on about American mpg figures is pointless to some degree because they use different measuring techniques, Toyota reckon it equates to about 60 mpg for the Mira by the time you do an official figure that'll probably be 55mpg so the running costs will be the same as a diesel, maybe more. I think you're still sore that the Panamera is being whipped by the Telsa! I tell you what if Hydrogen cars are out selling plug-ins by this time next year I'll stop posting else you will, deal. Either way no more of you attempted 'comical' comparasions about Hitler and Jews please!

I'll keep posting for as long as I like thank you XXXX. It gives me great pleasure pointing out all the idiotic things you say!!

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