Hyundai Charging Full-Steam-Ahead With Fuel Cell Vehicles

Yes, the headline is an intentionally mixed metaphor between technology that rose to prominence in the 19th century and the yet-debated 21st century propulsion technology afforded by fuel cells.

Indicators that it is accurate include that today Hyundai made its first ceremonial European deliveries of many more planned hydrogen-powered Tucsons, and two weeks ago it signed on with other automakers to H2USA, an initiative to advance fuel cell vehicles toward viability.

The Tucson-based SUV is actually known as the iX35, and in March Hyundai’s John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America went on record touting the benefits of fuel cell vehicles over battery electric cars, predicting nationwide U.S. distribution beginning in 2015 in addition to plans to the UK and EU.

If Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn is “bullish” for electric cars, Hyundai seems to be among the most ardent in advancing plans for fuel cell vehicles with its first production model.

The iX35 can travel 100 mph and offers range of about 370 miles based on a liquid-hydrogen fill up that takes no longer than a gas fill, and makes even Tesla’s Supercharger’s 20-30 minute wait times appear glacial by comparison.

Aside from that, significant impediments remain for fuel cell technological advancement, but the European delivery today of 15 cars to the municipal fleet of the city of Copenhagen was on the occasion of the launch of Denmark’s first hydrogen refueling station.

As for the U.S. front, other hydrogen cars have beaten Hyundai to being available on a very limited basis, and Hyundai’s signing on to H2USA was along with Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Toyota. The H2USA partnership is a collaboration with automakers, government agencies, gas suppliers, and the hydrogen and fuel cell industries.

The partnership hopes to leverage resources to identify ways to encourage fuel cell electric vehicle early adopters. It will conduct coordinated technical and market analysis, and evaluate alternative fueling infrastructure wit the end goal leading to cost reductions and economies of scale.

“Hyundai’s Tucson Fuel Cell program is an integral part of our plan to develop low-carbon, fuel-efficient vehicles that minimize fuel consumption and reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” said Gil Castillo, senior group manager, alternative vehicle strategy, Hyundai Motor America. “Our partnership with the Energy Department and H2USA is another way Hyundai is striving to meet the critical social needs for both mobility and environmental preservation.”

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