Flemish vice Minister President and Minister of Energy Annemie Turtelboom proud and pleased to take her first drive in Hyundai's FCEV, with William Meerschaut, PR and Communications Manager at Hyundai Belux having shown her the commands, sitting next to her on the first short drive...
Of course, the commercial launch of Hyundai's FCEV is a good occasion to bring political decision makers and promoters of alternative energy mobility together, and therefore Hyundai Belgium organised a press conference last week where it presented its ix35 fuel cell vehicle.
Posing in front of the Hyundai, from left to right: Olivier Sermeus, Director of Hyundai Belux, Minister Annemie Turtelboom and Adwin Martens of Waterstofnet.
This conference was set up together with WaterstofNet, and quite fittingly, the Flemish vice Minister President and Minister of Energy Annemie Turtelboom was invited to see and drive the car, and of course, be an advocate for the increasing use of "clean" energy, be it electric, natural gas or, last but not least, fuel cell driven mobility.
Hans Knol ten Bensel
In the opening speeches of the press conference, Managing Director of Hyundai Belux Olivier Sermeus (see photo above) pointed out that Hyundai has built its first Fuel Cell vehicle in 2000, and that today Hyundai is already manufacturing its third generation of fuel cell cars. The ix35 FCEV started series production in 2013, and has been exported already to not less than 11 countries.
In Flanders, the construction of filling stations is still in the starting blocks, but the quick progression in neighbouring countries points to a very positive and swift development. Within the next decade, hundreds of filling stations will have been built throughout Europe, and Flanders will not lag (far) behind, he concluded.
Hyundai is in the meantime continuing its research and its FCEV vehicles are being further developed and improved. A completely new generation of FCEV's will be therefore be launched in 2018...see photo above
Use of Hydrogen promoted by WaterstofNet...
As we said, the press conference was organised together with WaterstofNet, freely translated HydrogenNet, an organisation which in the framework of the European T(rans)E(uropean)N(etwork) and with the support of the Flemish government is drawing up together with the Université Catholique de Louvain a blueprint of the infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations to be established in Belgium over the 2015-2030 period.
Drawing up this "roadmap" is especially important as a seamless coordination with the neighbouring countries is a must.
Director Adwin Martens of WaterstofNet (see photo here) pointed out that Flanders has a number of important industrial players in the field, both in filling stations and vehicles.
Building a hydrogen network would therefore open export opportunities and also mean more jobs and work in Flanders. Taking into account that about 20 stations will be built in the Netherlands until 2020 and that Denmark will have 11 stations built by 2017, the construction of around 20 stations in Belgium is considered a reasonable target, according to Adwin Martens. In the meantime, WaterstofNet is driving the ix35 FCEV since October last year, and has travelled some 21.000 trouble free kilometres so far, including some long distance journeys like a trip to Denmark…
"Clean" energy is the future...
Flemish Minister of Energy Annemie Turtelboom believes firmly that the future mobility in Flanders needs more "green" vehicles. Presently, not less than 2,5 million Diesel powered and 1,5 million petrol engined cars are rolling on our roads, and she is convinced that this has to change.
This gradual transition towards "cleaner" cars, be it electrical, hybrid, natural gas or fuel cell cars, can be steered through fiscal incentive policies.
Implementation of charging and filling stations will also be facilitated, and an action plan will be ready after the summer.
For the time being, the focus will rather be on electrical vehicles, as the interaction with the existing electricity grid can be realised in a near future.
Of course, battery technology will have to develop still further in order to gain mass public acceptance of this type of mobility. The minister pointed out that nevertheless, the average daily distance driven by the Flemish car owner is a mere 43 kilometres.
and therefore the range of our present electrical vehicles is already sufficient in most cases.
However, driving long distances will always remain necessary, so CNG/LNG is included in the 'clean power' strategy laid out by the European Commission, to be implemented by the EU member states.
Both the production of electrical energy as well as natural gas opens the possibilities of using renewable energy sources, and this is also an important factor.
The minister expressed her appreciation for the work of WaterstofNet, and pointed out that in the coming weeks she will have numerous contacts with automotive industry, providers of technology and investors in infrastructure keen to develop a Hydrogen Network for Flanders.
She remarked that in Antwerp, already three hydrogen powered buses are providing daily public transport services...
Driving is believing...
The minister was of course keen to drive the ix35 Fuel Cell car. Suffice to say that she was very impressed by the smoothness and utter silence and refinement of the car, after having driven the first few kilometres. She quickly became convinced of the qualities and ease of use of this ix35 Fuel Cell Hyundai, and with apparent total confidence, she decided to take the wheel and drive all alone by herself to Brussels. With a big smile she took off, relegating her chauffeur and staff to mere spectators...
Hans Knol ten Bensel