Hyundai-European Commission

SEOUL, March 17 (Yonhap) -- Hyundai Motor Co. said its ix35 fuel cell electric car has been selected for test drives by key European Union officials this year, a move that could help the top South Korean automaker expand zero-emission cars in Europe.

Hyundai Motor said hydrogen fuel cell versions of its popular Tucson ix sport utility vehicle will be available throughout 2013 to members of the European Parliament, European Commission officials and other policymakers for test drives in Brussels, Belgium.

It marked the second time for the European Commission-backed Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking to select the ix35 fuel cell car to demonstrate the real-world benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

In 2012, the ix35 fuel cell was presented to EU decision-makers, stakeholders and the general public at a number of demonstration drives and public events in Brussels and other locations across Europe.

"We are delighted that the FCH JU has chosen the ix35 Fuel Cell as its European demonstration vehicle and look forward to working with them to promote the benefits of hydrogen and fuel cell technology," B.K. Rim, president of Hyundai Motor Europe, said in comments posted on the Hyundai Motor Web site.

"We are sure that the leading policymakers and opinion-formers who drive this remarkable vehicle will find its ability to deliver performance and comfort without compromising its eco-friendly nature with tailpipe emissions highly compelling."

A fuel-cell car emits only water vapor as it converts hydrogen into electricity, which turns the vehicle's motor, a technological advance that could eventually reduce heavy reliance on internal combustion engines that produce greenhouse gases largely responsible for global warming.

Hyundai said its fuel-cell car can travel 594 kilometers on a single charge and its maximum speed is 160 kilometers per hour.

Hyundai Motor said it began assembly-line production of ix35 fuel cell electric cars earlier this year, and plans to build 1,000 units by 2015 for lease to public and private fleets, primarily in Europe.

The European Commission has established a road map for construction of a pan-European hydrogen fueling station network. Hyundai said a total of 17 ix35 vehicles have already been ordered by the cities of Copenhagen, Denmark and Skane, Sweden.

Hyundai Motor claims it stays at least two years ahead of its competitors, including Daimler-Benz and General Motors, in indigenous technology and know-how for making hydrogen fuel-cell cars.

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