2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Launched for 2005, the Tucson compact crossover was Hyundai’s answer to the Toyota RAV4 , Honda CR-V , and the Ford Escape . The Tucson did surprisingly well its first year, selling over 60,000 units in the U.S. alone. The small crossover slotted under Hyundai’s larger Santa Fe and Veracruz crossovers. Sharing its platform with the Elantra sedan and Kia Sportage crossover, the Tucson proved to be a decent vehicle for moving people and their stuff. Hyundai launched the Tucson’s second generation for 2010 that included a more stylized look and more efficient engines. The 2015 Tucson is part of Hyundai’s latest experiment with hydrogen fuel cell technology. The new hydrogen system totally replaces the Tucson’s gasoline engine with a power system that runs only on hydrogen, and only emits water vapor and heat as an exhaust.

While the 2015 Tucson isn’t Hyundai’s first attempt at hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, it’s Hyundai’s first successful attempt. The Korean automaker is currently leasing Tucson FCV in select areas of California, including Los Angeles. For $2,999 down and $499 a month, owners can drive their Tucson FCV without the cost of refueling, as Hyundai is including free hydrogen fill-ups at its ‘At Your Service’ maintenance centers.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell.

Exterior

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

The exterior of the 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell takes a more conventional route in styling when compared to the 2014 Tucson model. The 2015’s front grille is now has the Hyundai corporate look similar to the grilles found on the 2015 Sonata and Genesis sedan. The six-sided look is clean and less obtuse than before and really makes the Tucson a more seductive vehicle.

With the fuel cell aspect getting all the attention, the crossover also sports some unique adornments not found on regular gasoline-powered Tucsons. The rocker panels how have a shapely satin chrome accent and the fuel door also shares that same look. Several fuel cell badges are found around the exterior, letting onlookers know what’s under the hood.

Wheelbase103.9 in.
Overall length173.6 in.
Overall width (excludes mirrors)71.7 in.
Overall height65.2 in.
Tread width (front/rear)62.4 in. / 62.8 in.
Overhang (front/rear)34.6 in. / 35.0 in.
Minimum Ground Clearance6.5 in.
Coefficient of Drag (Cd)0.35

Interior

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Inside the Tucson Fuel Cell is the same interior found in the conventional Tucson. Shapely curves give the dashboard plenty of character while the center-mounted infotainment screen give it plenty of functionality. The HVAC controls get their own section below the infotainment screen and provide easy manipulation of temperature, fan speed, and defrost functions.

The center console is full of cubby spaces and cup holders, giving owners plenty of space to store their stuff. Twin analog gauges in the driver’s gauge cluster flank a small screen that displays pertinent information on the crossover’s operation.

Like any good crossover, the rear seats fold flat, giving owners loads of cargo room. When not hauling stuff, the rear 60/40 split bench provides a nice place for three passengers to sit.

Head room
Front39.4 in
Rear39.1 in
Leg room
Front41.2 in
Rear38.1 in
Shoulder room
Front57.1 in
Rear55.1 in
Hip room
Front53.8 in
Rear52.6 in
EPA passenger volumeTBD
EPA cargo volume, rear seats up23.8 cubic ft.
EPA cargo volume, rear seats folded down53.8 cubic ft.

Drivetrain

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Of course, the most notable thing about the Tucson Fuel Cell is its drivetrain. Its hydrogen powerplant uses an electrochemical process that produces electricity from the circulating of hydrogen through a fuel cell. The hydrogen enters the anode portion of the unit while outside air enters the cathode section. Catalysts then split the hydrogen electrons and protons while an electrolyte conducts the positively charged ions while blocking the electrons.

Those electrons are then used to create electricity to power the electric motor. The only byproduct of this hydrogen process is heat and water vapors. No harmful pollutions are created nor emitted.

According to Hyundai, a single fuel cell produces roughly one volt of electricity. Therefore, multiple fuel cells are needed to produce the large amount of power needed. Stacking these cells together in a circuit allows for the generation of large amounts of power.

Hyundai says the Tucson Fuel Cell has a range of 265 miles on a single tank of Hydrogen, however there’s at least one report of the vehicle traveling 435 miles on a single fill-up.

Fuel SystemHydrogen Fuel Cell
Fuel Cell TypeProton Exchange Membrane
Fuel Cell Power (max)100 kW
Electric Motor TypeInduction
Electric Motor Power (max)100 kW
Battery TypeLi-Polymer
Battery Energy0.95 (kWh)
Battery Power (max)24 kW
Horsepower134 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque221 lb-ft @ 1,000 rpm

Prices

Currently Tucson Fuel Cells are available on a 36-month lease program. With $2,999 down and $499 per month after that, leasees can drive their Tucsons up to 12,000 miles per year. The best part of the lease deal is the hydrogen fuel comes free of charge at one of several California-based stations.

Competition

2014 Toyota FCV

Toyota FCV Concept

Toyota is also bringing a fuel cell vehicle to market, though in a smaller package. It uses a similar Hydrogen powerplant to produce its electrical energy in the form of roughly 100kW. That equals out to around 134 horsepower. Toyota says acceleration will be in the 10-second range, competitive with the Prius.

Though U.S. pricing hasn’t been released yet, we know the FCV will cost Japanese buyers some 7 million yen, or approximately $69,000. Toyota hints at less expensive costs for U.S. buyers once it arrives, but we expect it to still cost over $50,000.

Honda FCX Clarity

Honda FCX Clarity

Honda is also in the hydrogen fuel cell game with its FCX Clarity. Hitting the streets in 2008, the Clarity proved that hydrogen to be a viable option for automotive propulsion.

The FCX Clarity uses a fuel cell design much like the Toyota and Hyundai systems and has a range of more than 300 miles on a single fill-up. Also like Hyundai, the FCX Clarity is limited to certain regions of California where hydrogen filling stations exist.

Conclusion

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell is a solid working model of what hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can be. With a decent range and free fuel during the lease, the early adopters of Hyundai’s technology are reaping the benefits of a pollution-free, electric vehicle with the practicality of a crossover SUV.

As time marches on and other automakers release their versions of fuel cell vehicles, the market is sure to respond positively with an expanding network of hydrogen refueling stations and fuel-cell-compatible dealerships across the country. While the world’s dependence on fossil fuels won’t end anytime soon, this and other attempts at more renewable and clean sources of energy seem to be headed in the right direction.

LOVE IT
  • Actual FVCs in real driveways
  • Free fill-ups during lease period
  • Good fuel range
  • Interior functionality
LEAVE IT
  • Only available on lease
  • Limited to California for sales and driving
  • Fuel Cell tech still in its infancy

Press Release

Hyundai today announced plans to offer its next-generation Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle for the U.S. market for just $499 per month, including unlimited free hydrogen refueling and At Your Service Valet Maintenance at no extra cost. For the first time, retail consumers will be able to put a mass-produced, federally certified hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in their driveways, with availability beginning late Spring 2014 at several Southern California Hyundai dealers.

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles represent the next generation of zero-emission vehicle technology, so we’re thrilled to be a leader in offering the mass-produced, federally certified Tucson Fuel Cell to retail customers,” said John Krafcik, president and chief executive officer, Hyundai Motor America. “The superior range and fast-fill refueling speed of our Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle contrast with the lower range and slow-charge characteristics of competing battery electric vehicles. We think fuel cell technology will increase the adoption rate of zero-emission vehicles, and we’ll all share the environmental benefits.”

FUEL CELL PRICING AND BENEFITS
The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell will initially be offered to customers in the Los Angeles/Orange County region for $499 per month for a 36-month term, with $2,999 down. This includes the addition of a remarkable new addition to the Hyundai Assurance program –unlimited free hydrogen refueling. “When we spoke to customers interested in driving a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, many wondered what the cost of hydrogen would be,” said John Krafcik. “To ease those concerns as we build-out the hydrogen refueling network, we thought covering this cost for these early adopters in the monthly payment was the best approach, and consistent with other aspects of our Hyundai Assurance program. It’s our way of saying: ‘This is another thing you don’t have to worry about, we’ve got your back.’”

In addition, Tucson Fuel Cell owners will enjoy all the same services of the Hyundai Equus “At Your Service” valet program. As Equus owners have enjoyed since its introduction in 2010, should a Tucson Fuel Cell require any service, a Hyundai dealer will pick up the vehicle and provide a loaner, then return their car after service to their home or business, at no charge.

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Customers interested in the Tucson Fuel Cell can indicate their interest (the first step in the ordering process) beginning today by visiting Hyundai.com.

The first three Hyundai dealers to offer the Tucson Fuel Cell to Southern California customers are Hardin Hyundai in Anaheim, Win Hyundai in Carson and Tustin Hyundai, with additional Hyundai dealers to follow. Availability of the Tucson Fuel Cell will expand to other regions of the country consistent with the accelerating deployment of hydrogen refueling stations.

THE NEXT-GENERATION ELECTRIC VEHICLE
To achieve societal goals of significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, more and more consumers will need to drive zero-emissions vehicles. Currently, there’s an ongoing debate about the future of the electric vehicle, with two schools of thought:

Store more electricity on-board using more/larger batteries
Create electricity on-board with hydrogen-powered fuel cell technology

Developed over 100 years ago, the battery electric vehicle has made progress in recent years, with improved affordability and energy storage capability. But for most consumers, range anxiety and lengthy recharging time remain formidable obstacles to using them in their daily lives. In addition, affordable electric vehicle technology is best suited to smaller urban vehicles, not larger family and utility vehicles that many families require to meet all of their needs. Because of the inherent weight and cost of batteries, and the chemistry and physics that drive slow recharge times, today’s electric vehicles have practical limits for many consumers.

TUCSON FUEL CELL ADVANTAGES
Hyundai is introducing its Tucson Fuel Cell to alleviate the limitations of traditional battery electric vehicles. The Tucson Fuel Cell maintains the day-to-day flexibility of the gasoline-powered Tucson so that its driver is able to immediately enjoy the next generation of electric vehicles without range or recharge-time compromises to their lifestyle.

The Tucson Fuel Cell represents the next generation of electric vehicles – those that create their own electricity, on-board, from hydrogen. According to UCI’s Advanced Power and Energy Program’s 2013 study, the hydrogen fuel cell provides lower total well-to-wheel emissions than a battery electric vehicle. For the Tucson Fuel Cell driver, this social benefit is achieved with greater utility, versatility and without compromises. Consider:

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Driving range up to 300 miles*
Capable of full refueling in under 10 minutes, similar to gasoline
Minimal reduction in daily utility compared with its gasoline counterpart
Instantaneous electric motor torque (221 lb-ft)
Minimal cold-weather effects compared with battery electric vehicles
Superb daily reliability and long-term durability
No moving parts within the power-generating fuel cell stack
More than two million durability test miles on Hyundai’s fuel cell fleet since 2000
Extensive crash, fire and leak testing successfully completed
Quieter EV operation
Zero greenhouse-gas emissions, emits only water vapor

* Estimated driving range based on internal tests; EPA ratings to be determined by launch

The Tucson Fuel Cell begins mass production for the U.S. market in February 2014 at the Ulsan, Korea assembly plant that also manufactures the Tucson gasoline-powered CUV. Manufacturing the Tucson Fuel Cell at the same plant allows Hyundai to leverage both the high quality and cost-efficiency of its popular gasoline-powered Tucson platform.

HYDROGEN RENEWABLE ENERGY SOLUTIONS
The benefits of hydrogen are well known — required supplies for the U.S. market can be produced domestically and its supply is virtually unlimited. It can be produced by varied means – including renewable sources such as biogas. In fact, Hyundai’s Fuel Cell prototypes have relied on hydrogen generated at the Orange County Sanitation District near its Fountain Valley headquarters, where methane from sewage is turned into hydrogen. Hydrogen can even be sourced directly from water, using electrolysis to split hydrogen molecules with electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Further supporting hydrogen infrastructure development, California approved a plan in October 2013 to develop up to 100 hydrogen refueling stations in the state over the next several years. This recent California initiative dovetails with increased government support of hydrogen infrastructure development at the federal level, such as H2USA.

HYDROGEN: LOWEST WELL-TO-WHEEL EMISSIONS
According to 2013 studies on well-to-wheel greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG) by the Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine, hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles have the lowest overall emission levels of all alternative fuel entries. Well-to-wheel emissions for hydrogen vehicles sourced from natural gas are lower than battery electric vehicles, and less than half of equivalent gasoline vehicle emissions. Even more impressive, hydrogen emissions sourced from biogas are a tiny fraction of equivalent gasoline vehicle emissions, yielding an extremely high factor of long-range emissions sustainability.

FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGY: HOW IT WORKS
Hyundai’s fuel cell effectively replaces the battery pack used in an electric vehicle by generating electricity from hydrogen through an electrochemical process that does not involve hydrogen combustion, with no moving parts within the fuel cell stack.

The fuel cell electrochemical process is as follows:

Hydrogen enters the anode, air (oxygen) enters the cathode
Catalyst splits the hydrogen electrons and protons
Electrolyte conducts the positively-charged ions while blocking the electrons
Electrons are used to create an external circuit, generating electricity
Catalyst combines the hydrogen ions and electrons with oxygen to create water and heat energy
A single fuel cell produces approximately one volt; fuel cells are “stacked” to meet voltage requirements

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

ENTERPRISE RENT-A-CAR EVALUATION DRIVE AVAILABILITY
Hyundai is also partnering with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to make the Tucson Fuel Cell available to consumers at select locations in the Los Angeles/Orange County region. This partnership will enable interested consumers to evaluate the Tucson Fuel Cell for their lifestyles on a multi-day basis, with rental availability also planned for Spring 2014.


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