Hyundai Planning Nationwide US Roll Out Of ix35 Fuel Cell SUV in 2015

Hyundai has already announced plans to launch its ix35 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in Europe and the UK, last week revealed the Euro-spec model in Geneva, and now it says the U.S. will get thousands beginning in 2015.

According to a WardsAuto interview with John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, the FCEVs based on the Tuscon model offer merits that pure battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and range-extended EVs like the Chevy Volt just cannot match for meeting tightening emissions regulations.

“I like the idea of a plug-in better than a pure EV, but there’s just so much redundancy (in extended range),” Krafcik told WardAuto with reference to the Volt.

And for urban dwellers lacking a dedicated parking spot, battery electric vehicles are also a problem, he said of just some of the problems Hyundai foresees.

As such, Hyundai will undertake mass production and retail sales of its FCEV in all 50 U.S. states a couple years before 2017-2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy Mandates kick in.

Unclear is whether the roll out will be staged as they have been for various plug-in cars following coastal regions and areas where a higher saturation rate of hybrids was historically the case.

Hyundai is not dissuaded by the present lack of hydrogen refilling of infrastructure, said Krafcik to WardsAuto. The $1 million cost to install a “station” – it is not clear the actual definition of “station” in this case – is on par with the costs of meeting environmental laws calling for replacement of underground gas tanks to prevent groundwater and soil contamination.

Looking down the road, Krafcik further said he believes EVs and their ilk are problematic as electric rates will rise with the number of electrified vehicles. This, he said, could negate their presently strong cost-benefit fueling advantage – and plug-in cars could eventually overload local grids by drawing more off-peak electricity than the grids will be able to supply.

In contrast Hyundai’s ix35 can be refueled like a petrol vehicle in minutes. Performance from its 134-horsepower (100-kw) FCEV will let it accelerate to 62 mph (100 kph) in a modest 12.5 seconds, with a top speed of 99.4 mph (160 kph).

The FCEV uses a modular stack to convert hydrogen to electricity which powers the car’s motor. Configured as it is now, range is estimated at 370 miles.

To date, the only production fuel-cell vehicle has been Honda’s FCX Clarity which was introduced n 2008 as a 36-month lease offer for $600 per month. To date, it’s estimated 40 of these have been leased, and Honda has blamed lack of hydrogen infrastructure for the low market receptiveness.

Hyundai’s plans call for thousands of ix35s in America, and as we know, it the company is bullish that the purportedly chicken-and-egg infrastructure issue will be solved.

WardsAuto