Corporate / Design & Technology

Another step toward Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles December 15th, 2008

By Hyun Jin Cho
Sustainability Management Team
Kia Motors Corporation

The whole world is reeling from the effects of the global recession. For the global economy, it’s already ‘winter’ and the winter cold (here in Korea, anyways) has just begun. Still, we can’t just stay curled up and avoid the chill as there’s much to do before spring arrives. Only those who are prepared will be able to welcome the new season.

Much of the efforts made by automakers to prepare for the new season is centered around environmentally friendly cars. Even companies facing very tough times have expressed their intent to invest more in developing green vehicles. They are driven by the faith that innovative, eco-friendly cars will stir up a warm breeze.

Kia Motors is continuing its own efforts to usher in a new spring. Among those activities, I would like to talk about the creation of a system to assess the performance of hydrogen fuel cells.

The system was set up jointly with Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) in November in the neutron radiography facility (NRF) of Hanaro, a nuclear reactor developed for research purpose. An environment is created in which a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), which has high energy conversion efficiency and is environmentally friendly, generates electricity in much the same way it would when a car is being driven. The system then makes real-time observations of what happens inside the fuel cell using the neutron imaging technique.

PEMFC is a kind of fuel cell that produces electricity from an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Chemical energy is directly converted into electrical energy, rather than thermal. This results in high efficiency with virtually no pollution. Complicated water management is vital to enhancing the performance of PEMFC. Performance will weaken notably if too much or too little water is generated during the electricity production process, and an efficient cooling channel must be set up to prevent performance loss caused by heat during the operation of the fuel cell.

The neutron imaging technique is the only method for directly observing what happens inside a fuel cell which is covered by a metal membrane. The neutron image produced by the fuel cell observation system will accurately reveal the amount and distribution of water inside the fuel cell. This should help with efforts to optimize the ratio of hydrogen to oxygen and adjust the amount of humidity, temperature and pressure when injecting hydrogen and oxygen. That, in turn, will lead to enhanced performance and design of fuel cells.

This is the fourth time that a system like this has been developed to verify fuel cell performance using a nuclear reactor. The others were set up in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Penn State University (PSU) of the U.S. and Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) of Switzerland.

Another major step has been made toward the introduction of vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Such steps will bring us closer to the day when zero emissions cars become common sights on our roads.

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  • Pamela (Korea)

    Great article Hyun Jin!

    This is a good example of how Kia has been taking the lead in designing viable cars for the 21st century. Not only has the focus been on design and quality over the last few years, but it’s also on creating a sustainable future. This story is only one example of how the company has gone about doing that.

    More research and time will only lend itself to bigger, better technology.

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  • Hyun Jin Cho

    Thank you, Pamela. ^^

    I believe that the dream of a peaceful relationship between the automobile and the Earth is what drives Kia Motors forward.

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  • The style of writing is quite familiar . Did you write guest posts for other bloggers?

  • HyundaiSmoke

    Hydrogen is a pipe dream guys, bring your Hybrid C’eed/Soul Engine/Small car hybrid system for the Hyundai/KIA small car products in America. Iam very disappointed with the MPG on the 1.6 Gamma on the Soul, and you should be too. Please guys, make the MPG better for next gen Accent and Rio, at least 45 MPG US.

    By the way, Chevrolet claims the Next Gen Aveo for 2011 will have 47 MPG with just a 1.4-1.6 petrol motor.

    I want to trade my 2007 Accent in for a Hybrid B-Segment in 2011, you have delayed production many times on the Accent/Rio Hybrid. I see you guys now have a viable small car system almost ready for production. Get it ready, or I will have to jump ship and buy the used Prius. There are hundreds of used Priuses within 100 miles of my house for no more than $14,000.

    I really dont want to jump ship, but you will force me to. The MPG on the Accent is geting pretty boring.