Sunday Roast: Seoul searching

Boring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

EVERY now and then I get to take a brief spin into the future, and frankly the experience always leaves me as depressed as Meatloaf’s personal trainer.

This week I visited Korea for the first time, home to the world’s second-largest city, Seoul, which has a population of 26 million and a sky that looks like God’s just blown his nose on it, and then used it to mop the floor.

Drive a few hundred kilometres out of the city, which contains half the country’s population, and you can see how the other half live, under a more recognisably blue and white dome.

The general need for cars – and industry – with zero emissions is entirely obvious and, while Australia is still a few thousand years away from this kind of population crush, quite depressing as well.

We were allowed to drive one of these futuristic world-saving vehicles, the hydrogen-sucking, water vapour-emitting Hyundai ix35 FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) and, as is so often the case with these cars, it made me want to emit water vapour as well, from my eyes.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this FCV – the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen car, and one that is already on sale in California – but that doesn’t mean I can’t hate it.

Yes, it’s quiet, smooth, effortlessly torquey and a complete lack of gears means its changes feel non-existent, because they are. It feels just like a normal car inside, except that it has a slight air of self-satisfaction about it.

But on the boring scale it’s so awful it makes Pride and Prejudice look like Die Hard. Until you drive an EV, FCV or even a hybrid, you really have no idea how vital the auditory sense is to your enjoyment of driving.

When you put your foot down, the shove in the back is important, the blurring of the scenery is nice and the sense of motion is essential, but the sound is the sweet sugar on top, and when you take it away, driving is just dull.

Think about it, the better a car is to drive, the louder it is. Lamborghinis and Ferraris leave you slightly deaf, and happy about it.

Sure, car companies are already creating fake engine sounds to pump into the cabin, but that’s like creating lifelike robots for people to have sex with – clever but sad.

The future will be cleaner, because it needs to be, but it sure is going to be boring. It’ll be all Seoul and no soul. It almost makes you glad you’re not young.

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