A white Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell vehicle rolled off the assembly line at the company’s Ulsan manufacturing facility, as Hyundai became the world’s first automaker to begin assembly-line production of zero-emissions, hydrogen-powered vehicles for fleet use.

The ix35 Fuel Cell vehicle, based on Hyundai’s popular ix35, C-segment SUV, exited the assembly line at Hyundai Motor Company’s Plant Number five during a launch event attended by Hyundai top management and VIPs.

“With the ix35 Fuel Cell vehicle, Hyundai is leading the way into the zero-emissions future,” Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman, Eok Jo Kim said at the ceremony today. “The ix35 Fuel Cell is the most eco-friendly vehicle in the auto industry and proves that hydrogen fuel cell technology in daily driving is no longer a dream.”

The ix35 Fuel Cell unveiled at the ceremony will be one of 17 destined for fleet customers in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark and Skåne, Sweden. The municipality of Copenhagen, as part of its initiative to be carbon-free by 2025, will be supplied with 15 ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles for fleet use, according to an agreement that was announced in September 2012. Two ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles will be supplied to Skåne, Sweden.

“Assembly-line production of fuel cell vehicle marks a crucial milestone in the history of the automobile industry not just in Korea, but throughout the world,” Mang Woo Park, mayor of Ulsan city, said in his congratulatory message. “By supplying more hydrogen refuelling stations to support the eco-friendly fuel cell vehicles produced, we will make Ulsan the landmark for eco-friendly automobiles.”

Hyundai plans to build 1,000 ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles by 2015 for lease to public and private fleets, primarily in Europe, where the European Union has established a hydrogen road map and initiated construction of hydrogen fuelling stations.

The strategy of leading automakers in Europe and the US is to supply hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and establish refuelling stations in order to prepare the market for mass production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

After 2015, with lowered vehicle production costs and further developed hydrogen infrastructure, Hyundai will begin manufacturing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for consumer retail sales.

Built with proprietary technology, Hyundai’s ix35 Fuel Cell is powered by hydrogen. A fuel cell stack converts the hydrogen into electricity, which turns the vehicle’s motor. The only emission generated by the ix35 Fuel Cell is water. Hyundai’s ix35 Fuel Cell boasts drivability and performance similar to that of the petrol ix35.

The development and application of a new radiator grille, bumper, fog lamps, supervision cluster and 7-inch GPS exclusively for the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles enhances the ix35 Fuel Cell’s marketability. Furthermore, modularisation of fuel cell systems for the core part of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle — fuel cell stack, driving device and inverter — enabled the engine to be downsized to match the size of a petrol engine while improving productivity and making maintenance more convenient.

In January 2013, the ix35 Fuel Cell won the prestigious FuturAuto award at the Brussels Motor Show, celebrating its technical innovation.