Korean automaker Hyundai has been developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for the past decade. Test vehicles have traveled more than 1.2 million miles since 2004. Hyundai’s commitment to fuel-cell sedans and SUVs has yielded significant improvements in the past six years. The second-generation Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) featured a 230-mile range with a fuel economy rating of 64 miles per gallon. This vehicle will soon be eclipsed by the Hyundai Tucson ix FCEV, a third-generation vehicle slated for release in 2015.
The Tucson ix FCEV includes a 21kW lithium-ion battery, a 100kW fuel cell stack and a pair of hydrogen storage tanks. Hyundai notes that the new fuel-cell stack is 20% lighter than the previous generation thanks to lightweight components. This drive system is capable of traveling up to 404 miles per trip, which is competitive with gas-powered sedans currently on the market. The fuel economy equivalent for the Tucson ix FCEV is 73 miles per gallon, which is a 15% improvement over the second-generation FCEV. Hyundai developed the fuel-cell drive system to start at temperatures as low as -12⁰ F. This advancement would allow consumers in mountainous and cold-weather areas to take advantage of fuel-cell technology.
The first appearance of the Tucson ix FCEV was a concept version at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. This introduction was welcomed with great enthusiasm by auto industry experts as well as governments around the world. Hyundai is already working with agencies like the U.S. Department of Energy to incorporate the Tucson ix FCEV into future demonstration and incentive programs. The automaker participated in the department’s Learning Demonstration Program from 2004 to 2009 in order to get the first two generations of FCEVs on American roads.
Hyundai is also playing to Korean consumers with the latest FCEV design. The automaker noted during the announcement that 95% of components came from Korean producers. The inclusion of more than 120 parts produced in South Korea pleases government officials and consumers interested in boosting local manufacturing. The national government is working with Hyundai to include 48 Tucson ix FCEVs in the country’s Domestic Fleet Program in 2011. Hyundai’s fuel-cell innovations are promising but these developments mean little without advancements in refueling technology and investment.