Many believe that the ultimate goal for electric transportation is the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV), with battery electric vehicles being just a step along the way. Hyundai is skipping this step and concentrating on developing and marketing FCVs. The automaker notes that affordable electric vehicle technology is best suited to smaller urban vehicles, not to larger family and utility vehicles that many families require to meet all of their needs.
To that end, Hyundai is poised to offer its next-generation Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle in Southern California Hyundai dealers starting sometime this spring. Production is taking place at the automaker’s Ulsan plant in Korea. Hyundai already began production of the ix35 Fuel Cell, the Tucson’s equivalent in Europe, at Ulsan in January 2013. Since the Ulsan plant builds the gasoline-powered Tucson CUV, this allows Hyundai to take advantage of both the high quality and cost-efficiency of its popular gasoline-powered Tucson platform.
Hyundai’s third-generation fuel cell vehicle features significant improvements over its predecessor, including a 50 percent increase in driving range and 15 percent better fuel efficiency. The Tucson and ix35 Fuel Cell are equipped with a 100 kilowatt electric motor, allowing a top speed just shy of 100 mph. Instantaneous 221 lb-ft torque from the electric motor means spritely acceleration.
Sufficient hydrogen for an approximate 370 mile range is stored in two hydrogen tanks. Refueling is accomplished in less than 10 minutes, providing daily utility comparable with its gasoline counterpart. Electrical energy is stored in a 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymer battery that’s been jointly developed with LG Chemical. The fuel cell reliably starts in temperatures as low as -20 degrees C (-4 degrees F). Unlike battery electric vehicles there is minimal capacity decrease at very low temperatures.
Hyundai’s fuel cell fleet has completed over two million durability test miles since 2000. Extensive crash, fire, and leak testing have been successfully completed. Hyundai says that high reliability and long-term durability come as a matter of course with the power-generating fuel cell stack, which has no internal moving parts.
The Hyundai Fuel Cell will be leased for $499 per month on a 36 month term, with $2,999 down. This includes unlimited free hydrogen refueling and At Your Service Valet Maintenance at no extra cost. Hyundai will initially offer the Tucson Fuel Cell in the Los Angeles/Orange County areas at four dealerships that will have hydrogen refueling capability. The automaker says that availability will expand to other regions of the country consistent with the accelerating deployment of hydrogen refueling stations.
Hyundai is also partnering with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to rent the Tucson Fuel Cell at select locations in the initial lease regions. This will allow interested consumers to evaluate the Tucson Fuel Cell for their lifestyles on a multi-day basis. Rentals are also planned sometime this spring.