SAE World Congress auto news

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Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell CUV deliveries running behind schedule

04/12/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Hydrogen, Hyundai, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, SAE World Congress

SAE World Congress Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell SUV

Things are running a little bit behind on Hyundai's hydrogen-powered Tucson Fuel Cell CUV program in the US. The last time we checked in with the South Korean automaker's H2 project, we heard that the first deliveries were supposed to happen by the end of March. Speaking with Hyundai's Kevin Lee at the Hyundai booth at the SAE World Congress this week, we learned that deliveries are now going to happen closer to a month from now.

Globally, there are roughly 70-100 of these hydrogen CUVs running in customer hands today.

Lee told AutoblogGreen that the first US-bound units will be shipped from South Korea at the end of April or beginning of May but there is no actual date set for the first customer delivery. He said he expects 100 or fewer H2 powered Tucson CUVs to be operating in the US by the end of this year, all of them in Southern California. He said the customers in this first batch are being selected based on the location of the nearest hydrogen fuel station. While the number of stations is small today, more are on the way. Globally, there are roughly 70-100 of these hydrogen-powered CUVs (also known as the ix35) running in customer hands today, in places like South Korea, Germany, Norway, Austria and Italy.

Some H2 stations charge Hyundai a flat rate per fill while others charge the automaker a general station maintenance fee.

In the US, the Tucson Fuel Cell CUV leases for $499 a month (with $2,999 down) for 36 months, and comes with unlimited hydrogen refueling as well as Hyundai's Valet Maintenance. Lee told us that one reason for the "free" hydrogen is that even the small number of public hydrogen stations out there (nine in SoCal) does not have a cohesive set of rules for how to sell H2 to the public. The stations are not yet certified to charge customers based on dollar per kilogram in California, Lee said, since that regulation has not yet been set by the Division of Measurement Standards (DMS). Currently, "each station is different," he said, with some charging Hyundai a flat rate per fill and others charging the automaker a general station maintenance fee. This situation will likely change by the end of the year, he said.

Lee said Hyundai is already busy working on the next-gen fuel cell vehicles and trying to reduce costs but was not able to share any details. The one thing he did say was that things are "going well" and that it was "currently under discussion at a very high level" whether or not these fuel cell vehicles will be subject to shorter development time than standard vehicles. In other words, if you don't like the Tucson Fuel Cell SUV today, a newer and better version might be here sooner than expected.

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SAE Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheels give Ford Focus SE a 1.1 mpg boost

04/20/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, SAE World Congress

As fuel economy regulations tighten all around the world, each part of the automobile is getting a second (and third and fourth ...) look to see if there is any way to squeeze out a few more yards per gallon. At the SAE World Congress in Detroit this week, Lacks Enterprises was showing off its contribution to the get-every-efficiency debate: Evolve Hybrid Wheels.

James Ardern, Lacks Wheel Trim Systems director of business development, told AutoblogGreen that wheels, which spin at 1,000 rpm, are pretty much four propellers that can have a big effect on aerodynamics, an effect that hasn't been measured nearly as much as it could be.

"We have learned that wheels are contributing significantly to the fuel economy of a vehicle."

"We have learned that wheels are contributing significantly to the fuel economy of a vehicle," he said. The things right next to the wheels, the tires get tested. Consumer Reports, for example, has shown that better, more efficient tires can raise a vehicles mpg rating by one or two ticks, and Lacks has test results that show that the wheels - at least the Evolve wheels - can do the same.

The Evolve Hybrid Wheels are not to be only used on hybrids. The name comes from the hybrid composite wheel technology that is applied to a structural aluminum backbone that is both lightweight and strong. Then, the designers can add a variety of shapes to blend aerodynamic efficiency with good looks (eye of the beholder and all). Lacks had Roush conduct some independent tests, and discovered that a Ford Focus SE outfitted with the Evolve wheels got a 0.4 mile per gallon improvement in the average city fuel economy and a 1.1 mpg highway improvement, compared to the car's stock wheels.

The idea is to co-develop efficient wheels with the automakers, and Ardern said Lacks is currently in discussions with three different OEMs and, "We do have one Evolve wheel already launching on an OEM capacity towards the end of this year," but he would not name which company. First truck testing will be tested by June and a second in August/September, and the same type of test will be run. An expanded set of tests will be done on the Focus this summer as well. There are no plans to test the wheels on an alternative power vehicle, but Ardern did say the program "will keep expanding."

"Why hasn't this happened before? One, it hasn't been measured. Two, it is difficult to do it. It is not an exaggeration to say wheel development includes many towers of competency: wheel suppliers themselves from a manufacturing point of view, wheel engineering from a structural and safety point of view, not also weight teams and fuel economy and ride and handling teams are getting involved. But then you've still got design and now aero. The problem is, you put all of those people in the same room at the same time and you'll never optimize a wheel. The value of our product is you create the backbone and that cuts our all groups but the design and aero teams. Perhaps the key thing that's going to come out of all this is that the method is going to enable it to get out onto the road."

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