Hyundai reveals new fuel cell sedan concept at Seoul Motor Show

At the Seoul Motor Show Hyundai has reiterated its commitment to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with a new mid-size sedan concept dubbed Blue2. While Honda, Toyota, General Motors and Daimler (and in the past Ford although they have backed away from the technology recently) have garnered most of the attention in the world of automotive fuel cells, Hyundai has been quietly working away on the technology for several years.

Hyundai has developed its own in-house fuel cell stack rather than relying on partnerships with other automakers or suppliers. The Korean carmaker has shown a number of concepts over the years and built several dozen prototypes that have run in various test fleets. Just last month in Washington DC the company unveiled a fuel cell version of the current generation Tucson crossover.

Not much technical detail has been revealed about the Blue2 other than a 90 kilowatt output from the fuel cell and efficiency of about 82 miles per gallon. The hydrogen capacity and range are unknown at this time. The exterior design is a departure from the fluidic sculpture language of current production Hyundais and looks like an evolution of the theme from the Curb concept first shown at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year. The overall proportions and the greenhouse in particular do bear some resemblance to the current Saab 9-5 although the front overhang is shorter and stubbier. Inside a large Transparent Organic Light Emitting Diode (TOLED) screen dominates the instrument panel.

Hyundai has publicly committed to low volume production of fuel cell vehicles with numbers in the thousands beginning in 2012, ramping up to higher volumes by 2015. Given Hyundai’s recent history and successes, we certainly wouldn’t count them out.



CES 2011: Hyundai aims at the heart of OnStar with BlueLink

This week at the Consumer Electronics Show, Hyundai dropped a potential bomb into the middle of the in-vehicle technology battle with the announcement of BlueLink.  Hyundai has been growing its market share by steadily introducing more appealing vehicles that offer a lot of content at a value price, and BlueLink adds another arrow to Hyundai’s quiver. Ford’s Sync has recently grabbed all of the media and consumer mindshare with telematics pioneer OnStar running a distant second, and here comes Hyundai’s BlueLink to likely undercut and outperform the others, or at least offer features and functionality that was previously not available in otherwise stellar cars.

Hyundai’s announcement of BlueLink takes direct aim at the heart of OnStar in particular.  The core of OnStar for over a decade has been its embedded cellular radio which doesn’t rely on the driver having their own phone linked to the car. This allows OnStar to provide features like remote unlocking of the car, stolen vehicle slowdown, vehicle health reports and automatic emergency notification in the event of an accident.  Sync, on the other hand, relies on the driver bringing their own 3G enabled phone to the party in order to provide 911 alert and turn by turn driving directions.

Hyundai BlueLink also uses an embedded cellular radio allowing it provide all of the same functionality found in OnStar plus some extras such as geo-fencing, curfew alerts and eco-coach. Geo-fencing allows parents to define an allowable driving range before handing the keys to a teen driver. If the young driver ventures out side of the perimeter zone, the parent will be automatically alerted. On the other hand, parents won’t have worry so much about kids texting and driving. BlueLink provides voice-to-text capability so that drivers can simply dictate messages without removing their hands from the wheel.  Eco-coach sends your fuel economy data to BlueLink’s online cloud and aggregates it with other BlueLink users to provide you with feedback about how you are doing and advice on how to stretch your fuel dollar.

Just as with OnStar, BlueLink uses a rear view mirror with the three familiar buttons for general assistance, points of interest and emergency alert. The critical difference is that while OnStar advertises the fact that you’ll be talking to a live call center operator (located in the United States) Hyundai is relying on voice recognition for its assistance services. Hyundai is using the same Nuance voice recognition system that Ford uses so effectively in Sync. While Hyundai is not yet incorporating this voice recognition directly into the car to allow you control your media devices the way Sync does, you know it has to be just a matter of time.

Like OnStar and unlike Sync, BlueLink will be a subscription based service. Hyundai hasn’t announced pricing yet, but they will almost certainly undercut OnStar which starts at $18.95 per month. BlueLink debuts this spring on the Sonata and the Veloster coupe that debuts at the Detroit Auto Show before rolling out to the rest of the Hyundai lineup over the next couple of years.