Hyundai Motor America took a small step into the futuristic world of fuel cells last week, handing over the keys to the first customer of its hydrogen-powered car.
Known as the Tucson Fuel Cell CUV, the new car is said to be the first mass-produced vehicle of its type. Hyundai plans to build and lease approximately 1,000 of them by the end of 2015.
Experts caution, however, to not read too much into the event. “For the average consumer, this isn’t going to be a viable option in the near term,” Cosmin Laslau, research analyst at Lux Research Inc., told Design News. He added that the cost of hydrogen fuel is still too high, infrastructure too sparse, and the vehicle itself too costly.
In a ceremony at a California dealership, Hyundai executives handed the keys to the first customer of the Tucson Fuel Cell CUV.
(Source: Hyundai Motor America)
Hyundai is believed to be absorbing much of the initial cost of the cars. It leases them for $499 per month to Californians, who must live within range of nine hydrogen refueling stations, mostly in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The lease term for the vehicles is three years, 36,000 miles.
Lux Research expects production of such cars to be miniscule until the initial cost comes down. “The vehicles need to get to a price point of $30,000,” Laslau told us. “Right now, we believe they are a factor of two to three times more than that.”
In a press release, Hyundai said it introduced the Tucson Fuel Cell “to alleviate the limitations of traditional battery electric vehicles.” The new vehicle offers a driving range of 265 miles, is capable of refueling in less than 10 minutes, and exhibits minimal cold weather effects, making it a superior alternative to an electric car with a big battery, the company claims.
But much remains before fuel cell vehicles can compete with battery-electric cars. Refueling stations are virtually non-existent in most parts of the country, making it almost impossible for automakers to sell the vehicles in many locales. Moreover, the cost of stations is believed to be as much as $1.5 million apiece, making the uptake more difficult.
”For the infrastructure to get started, there’s going to be a huge bill to be paid, and it’s unclear who will be willing to foot that bill,” says Laslau.
For its new Tucson Fuel Cell customers, Hyundai has announced it will pay all refueling and maintenance costs. The company considers that action appropriate, given the fact that hydrogen infrastructure is still being built out.
Hyundai is one of several automakers now working on fuel cell vehicles. Honda recently rolled out a concept fuel cell vehicle and announced plans to launch a hydrogen-powered production car by 2015. Similarly, Toyota has said it plans to market a fuel cell car in 2015. And General Motors has entered into a collaborative arrangement with Honda to develop next-generation fuel cells and hydrogen storage technologies for the 2020 time frame.
Still, automakers recognize that the road to widespread fuel cell success will be a long one. “For hydrogen vehicles to be attractive, they will have to hit some very aggressive price points,” Laslau tells us. “We don’t see that happening in the near term.”
- Would You Pay $30K for an Electric Car?
- Lithium Chemistries Head List of Next-Gen EV Batteries
- Can Tesla's $5 Billion Bet Pay Off?
- Tiny Sensor Monitors Batteries on Start-Stop Cars
- Don't Hold Your Breath for Volkswagen's Lithium-Air Battery
- Tesla's Gigafactory Would Bring Us Closer to Reality
- Slideshow: Considering the History of Electric Cars...
- Could Tesla 'Gigafactory' Bring EVs to the Masses?
- Slideshow: Volkswagen Plugs in the New Golf
- Slideshow: Why California Matters to the EV Market
- The Tesla Fires Are Fixable
- Kia Bares Its Soul EV in Chicago
- Will Parking Problems Slow the Rise of Electric Vehicles?
- Slideshow: Fuel Cells Inch Forward
- Slideshow: Toyota Moves Closer to Fuel Cell Production Car
- Slideshow: Honda Plans Fuel Cell Vehicle for 2015
- Slideshow: Hydrogen-Powered Hyundai to Hit Showrooms in February
- New EV Battery Chemistry Boosts Range, Life
- Tesla to NHTSA: Investigate Our Model S Fires
- Slideshow: Urbee Developer Shooting for 290 MPG
- Is Wireless EV Charging the Better Way?
- EV Battery Maker A123 to Focus on Micro-Hybrids
- Slideshow: 'Bizarre' Incident Led to Tesla Battery Fire
- Video: Impact Caused Tesla Battery Fire
- Toyota Is Sticking With Hybrids
- Long-Range Affordable EV Won't Be Easy
- Slideshow: EVs & Plug-Ins for 2014
- Slideshow: Smart EV Has No Doors or Windows
- Slideshow: Volkswagen Takes a Deep Dive Into Electrics
- Slideshow: Safety Ratings for EVs & Plug-In Hybrids
- Why Electric Cars Are Safer
- Slideshow: BMW Unveils Premium Electric Car
- GM Chops $5,000 From Chevy Volt Price
- Is Range Anxiety Real?
- Slideshow: High-Voltage Hybrids & EVs
- Loss of Subsidies Could Burst EV Bubble
- How Much Would You Pay for an EV?
- Slideshow: GM, Honda Team Up on Fuel Cell Challenges
- Tesla Aims to Win Over Skeptics With Battery Swap Stations
- DOE Tool Compares Gasoline to Electricity Costs
- Slideshow: Automakers Look to a Hydrogen Car Future
- Slideshow: Detroit Electric Unveils 'World's Fastest' Electric Sports Car
- Slideshow: Porsche Plans Plug-In Hybrid
- Lithium-Ion Batteries Overheated in Mitsubishi Vehicles
- Slideshow: Volkswagen to Build World's Most Fuel-Efficient Car
- Slideshow: Fisker Says 'Plug-In Hybrids Make More Sense Than Pure Electrics'
- Auto Execs: Plug-In Hybrids Will Soar, Pure EVs Decline
- Slideshow: Cadillac ELR Trades Efficiency for Power
- Slideshow: Tesla's Model X Blends Electricity & Function
- 'EV Triumph' Needs More Perspective, Less Hype
- Slideshow: BMW's All-Electric Concept Coupe
- Old EV Batteries May Power Homes One Day
- Slideshow: Why Automakers Are Rolling Out Electric Cars
- Slideshow: Chrysler Rolls Out All-Electric Fiat
- Slideshow: GM Debuts Pure-Electric Spark
- Could Pure Electrics Emit More Than Hybrids?
- New Standard Will Cut EV Charging Time
- Future Batteries, by the Numbers
- Big Battery EVs Under Fire
- Chevy Volt: It's Not Time to Panic
- Lead-Acid Batteries Seek New Role in Hybrids, Plug-Ins
- GM to Idle Chevy Volt Production Again
- 54.5 MPG Comes With Trade-Offs
- Slideshow: Top 12 Most Fuel-Efficient EVs & Plug-In Hybrids
- Tesla's CEO: 'Half of Cars Will Be Electric in 15 Years'
- Big Battery Means Big Range, Cost for Tesla's Model S
- EV Battery Chemistry Could Eliminate Cooling Systems
- The 'Conspiracy' Behind the EV Market
- Electric RAV4 Rolls Off Toyota Line
- China's Electric Cars No Better Than Ours
- How Would You Cope With High Gas Prices?
- 'Revenge of the Electric Car' Gives Glimpse Into Minds of EV Faithful
- Why Is EV Battery Development So Hard?
- Hybrid Redux? Not for Most Owners
- EV Batteries: Solid Concept, but Not Ready for Prime Time
- EV Battery Report Says Costs Going Down
- Internal Combustion Engines Primed for Performance
- Electric Car Subsidies Won't Make EV Batteries Better
- Slideshow: Airbags From the Inside Out
- Slideshow: Detroit Auto Show's Concept Cars Roll Hybrid
- Slideshow: Electric Car Batteries Get Bigger
- Slideshow: Detroit Auto Show Highlights EVs, Hybrids
- Tesla Model S Hitting the Road This Summer
- Superbattery: The Next Great Triumph of Engineering
- Li-Ion Batteries in EVs May Last Longer
- Slideshow: 'Start-Stop' Hybrids Hit the Road
- Slideshow: Top 5 Automotive Trends to Watch in 2012
- Slideshow: Autonomous Vehicles Leave the Driving to... Themselves
- Electric Vehicles: How Far Have We Come in 100 Years?
- Would You Buy a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt?
- GM to Build First All-Electric Car Since EV1
- Slideshow: Car Electronics, From Dashboard Nav to Autonomous Vehicles
- Is GM's EV1 Still the Best Electric Car Ever?
- Does Anyone Know the True Cost of EV Batteries? (Not Really)
- Prius Plugs Into a New Era
- Nissan Bets on the Electric Car
- Tesla Engineer Boosts EV Range to New Heights