Vital Stats

Engine:
100-kW Stack / 100-kW Motor
Power:
134 HP / 221 LB-FT
Transmission:
Single-Speed
0-60 Time:
11.5 Seconds (est)
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,101 LBS
Seating:
2+3
MPG:
49 MPGe City / 50 MPGe HWY
Base Price:
$499/mo Lease
Hyundai leased its first Tucson Fuel Cell crossover last week, which the automaker claims makes it the first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle (FCV) that has been offered to the public (Honda may have something to say about that...). The vehicle, which consumes hydrogen and emits only clean water vapor from its exhaust pipe, will initially only be offered for lease in Los Angeles and Orange Counties – two regions with the greatest density of approved hydrogen stations in the country – at a monthly fee of $499. Since the Tucson FCV rolls down the same Ulsan, Korea, production line as its gasoline-powered relative, production is scalable based on customer demand.

We attended the festivities with the dignitaries and elected officials - clapping until our hands hurt. But once it was over, we grabbed a set of keys and took the new FCV for a half-hour jaunt. According to the press materials, written with a welcomed sense of humor, Hyundai will offer it in three colors: white, white and optional white. Our test model was the latter.

Driving Notes
  • The outside of the FCV is difficult to distinguish from the combustion version, until one gets close enough to see the "Hydrogen EV" cladding on the sides, the "Blue Drive" on the front doors or the "Fuel Cell" on the rear liftgate. The lack of exhaust pipe (one exists, but it is tucked out of view) is another giveaway. Subtle aero improvements have dropped the coefficient of drag from 0.37 to 0.35 (overall length, width and height are essentially identical between the models).
  • Hyundai has hidden two 10,000-psi Kevlar-wrapped tanks inside the Tucson Fuel Cell. The larger tank is just aft of the rear axle, with its dome raising the rear decklid floor by a couple inches (nearly imperceptible). The smaller tank is located just in front of the rear axle, beneath the passenger seats in the space normally occupied by a gasoline tank. The tanks are bulletproof – literally – having been tested for burst, drop, and gunfire resistance. If there is a leak, hydrogen sensors will alert occupants (there is a flush rectangular sensor on the roof of the cabin, just behind the driver's head near the dome light). If there is a fire, a pressure-release valve will vent the hydrogen in a controlled manner to prevent damage from overpressure.
  • In operation, a fuel cell vehicle acts and drives much like an electric vehicle. The Tucson Fuel Cell driver faces a familiar two-pod instrument cluster, with an analog charge/power dial on the left and an analog speedometer on the right. Set inside the power dial is a digital segment temperature gauge for the coolant. While electric vehicles typically don't have coolant, the FCV uses the liquid to cool its fuel stack and electronics. The digital segment fuel level gauge, set inside the speedometer, displays the balance of hydrogen in the tank. A digital multifunction display, between the two dials, offers trip computer information and instant MPGe readings.
  • The standard Tucson Limited FWD, with a 2.4-liter combustion engine, tips the scales at 3,294 pounds. Brace yourself, as the Tucson Fuel Cell is a whopping 807 pounds heavier. Hyundai engineers note swapping the gasoline engine for a fuel stack under the front hood is virtually a wash, and the two Kevlar-wrapped fuel tanks don't add much weight. The bulk of the added mass comes from the 24-kW lithium polymer battery pack. Normally, packing on that much weight has negative effects on driving dynamics - but not this time. The low-slung and compact weight (all situated below the passenger cabin) acts like a ballast inertia damper, countering the bouncing and jarring effects of driving down the road. Unlike its combustion-powered sibling, which can follow undulations in the pavement, the Tucson Fuel Cell glides like a silent electric limousine.
  • Compared to its combustion sibling, the Tucson Fuel Cell falls 48 horsepower shy, and it has all of that aforementioned mass to lug around. Have no worries, as the FCV's torque output is 44 pound-feet greater, and it's available right off the bat. While a 0-60 time of about 11.5 seconds won't cause whiplash, the emission-free crossover feels rather zippy between 15 and 45 miles per hour, which is likely where it will spend most of its time. It is expectedly lethargic off the line, and overtaking at highway speeds requires a bit of planning, but if you keep it in the sweet spot, it's rather enjoyable.
  • Hyundai fits the FCV with slightly larger front disc brakes (to accommodate the increased curb weight) that are part of a regenerative braking system that pumps energy back into the battery pack. Brake feel is okay, but the driver is definitely aware of the two-tons beneath his jeans. The steering, with slightly different ratios, is overboosted, light and uncommunicative – but it adds to the sense of isolation, so many will approve. Transitional handling is safe and predictable, but unexciting – anyone who shows up at an autocross with a Tucson Fuel Cell crossover is lost.
  • Government officials in California haven't figured out how to properly charge for hydrogen fuel (once they develop a pump that can reliably weigh the fuel while dispensing, expect it to be sold by the kilogram), so Tucson Fuel Cell owners enjoy free fuel from six Los Angeles-area stations during the term of their lease. The programs are capped at 12,000 miles a year, so owners won't break the bank. Each of the stations is equipped with a 700-bar pump fitted with a WEH TK17 pistol-grip nozzle that is held just like a common gasoline/diesel nozzle. Once the female nozzle is connected securely to the male nipple on the vehicle, an infrared ring around the nozzle communicates data wirelessly with the vehicle during fueling – it is clean and very high tech. At today's dispensing rates, it takes about 10 minutes to fill an empty "tank" (two tanks, actually). A full tank, which is 12.4 pounds of hydrogen, delivers a range of about 265 miles.
I've driven a handful of FCVs from a variety of manufacturers, and each seems to trump the one before it as the technology is refined. With the Tucson Fuel Cell crossover, Hyundai has impressively crossed its T's and dotted its I's – there are no range issues, drivability concerns, fuel costs, or maintenance worries to speak of.

If you are an Angelino seeking a no-compromise emissions-free vehicle, the Koreans may have just written your hydrogen song.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 173 Comments
      porosavuporo
      • 6 Months Ago
      Drive this to Vegas and back, please.
      paulwesterberg
      • 6 Months Ago
      Unfortunately fuelling hydrogen vehicles with reformed natural gas could increase greenhouse gas emissions: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/05/20/fuel-cell-vehicle-ghg-emissions/
        reconfreya
        • 6 Months Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Great, so stay home, don't work, and don't turn on the lights, or shut up.
          mustang_sallad
          • 6 Months Ago
          @reconfreya
          Or he can contribute to a conversation about how to maintain our lifestyle while reducing our impact on the environment... Paul's point is an important one. Your point seems to be that living in a cave is the low-hanging fruit and nothing else is worth pursuing.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 6 Months Ago
          @reconfreya
          Wow, what a fantastic counterargument, reconfreya. You win the thread!
      paulinator66
      • 6 Months Ago
      So the exhaust on hydrogen powered vehicles is water or water vapor? What happens in 50 years when the scientists are complaining about Global Dampening? Water vapor is a greenhouse gas too, right? CO2 was once thought to be harmless also.
        Joeviocoe
        • 6 Months Ago
        @paulinator66
        Scientists already know that water vapor is a greenhouse gas that cannot really be compounded by adding more water. The atmosphere only holds so much H20, before it precipitates... and even with 10x as many FCVs driving as there are gasoline cars today, nothing will change. Besides, a gasoline engine produces about the same amount of water too... it is just that nobody notices the water, with all the CO, CO2 and other crap coming out .
          Joeviocoe
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Care to provide 'new' data regarding the atmospheric science? Are you suggesting that NASA doesn't keep up with this stuff?
          Joeviocoe
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Ummm... No. "The study of clouds, where they occur, and their characteristics, play a key role in the understanding of climate change. Low, thick clouds primarily reflect solar radiation and cool the surface of the Earth. High, thin clouds primarily transmit incoming solar radiation; at the same time, they trap some of the outgoing infrared radiation emitted by the Earth and radiate it back downward, thereby warming the surface of the Earth. Whether a given cloud will heat or cool the surface depends on several factors, including the cloud's altitude, its size, and the make-up of the particles that form the cloud. The balance between the cooling and warming actions of clouds is very close although, overall, averaging the effects of all the clouds around the globe, cooling predominates." http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Clouds/
          Greg
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          "The atmosphere only holds so much H20, before it precipitates" - That's missing a big range, however. Nearly all of the atmosphere is not at a point of imminent precipitation/condensation, so water vapor exhaust does increase humidity. The facts: - H2O is much more effective GHG than CO2, but there is a limit to how much can be in the atmosphere. However, so long as the amount of H2O in the atmosphere is less than the critical level, it does not precipitate/condensate out. - H2O levels also control cloud formation, which has an even bigger effect on climate than GHGs. In only one week after 9/11 when all planes were grounded across the US, measurable differences were observed in temperature highs, lows, and sunlight brightness. The net effect of cloud cover is of warming, and more H2O leads to more clouds, which means even if H2O levels reach the max limit and create clouds, the net effect will still be to warm the planet. ____________________ "even with 10x as many FCVs driving as there are gasoline cars today, nothing will change." - That would only be true if the atmosphere was already at its limit, which it isn't. ____________________ I don't have thermo references in front of me to look up the energy data, but I can say with near certainty that "a gasoline engine produces about the same amount of water" is *NOT* true. Yes, hydrocarbons + O2 yields CO2 + H2O, but without the energy from the carbon reaction, more hydrogen is needed (and thus more H2O generated) to make up for it. It wasn't that long ago that CO2 was not considered a pollutant. It was only after showing that producing it caused climate change was that view changed. I have yet to see any real research data showing that H2O emissions won't similarly change the climate, so it's perfectly reasonable to be cautious about thinking it won't.
          Greg
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Umm, yes. You are quoting old data. And as I noted, yet you ignore, clouds are not the whole issue.
        ExigeS
        • 6 Months Ago
        @paulinator66
        Exactly cuz much like water c02 gathers together and rains right back down.If only mo people were learned in energy cycles like us.
      CoolWaters
      • 6 Months Ago
      This is the perfect example of just how stupid Hydrogen is. Japan Reports HOTTEST SPRING On Record. So, no we don't need another carbon solution that releases Very Potent Green House Gases into the atmosphere. Because Shell is going to make "Hydrogen" from Methane. We have a short term EMERGENCY here, or we'll have a Long Term Disaster. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/06/17/3449871/hottest-spring-on-record/
      CoolWaters
      • 6 Months Ago
      Former REPUBLICAN EPA CHIEFS try to convince Republicans Climate Change is Real. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/18/epa-republicans-climate_n_5509048.html My guess is this will be a failure as long as we allow EXXON and the Koch Brothers to BUY Republicans like cheap $10 ******.
      CoolWaters
      • 6 Months Ago
      Global Warming is this generations World War III. To see a bunch of OLD GEEZERS continue to run capitalism with ONLY MONEY as their PRIME Motivation PROVES Capitalism is a FAILURE. If these Old Geezer CEO's cannot decide on a REAL Solution and ACTION Now, then we will only see the earth wither away along with their Vast Wealth. No one is Stupider then a CEO. Just look at the Cigarette industry, Profiting off Killing People was NO DETERRENT for the cigarette industry CEO, and we're seeing the Same Thing for Oil. ZERO Leadership.
        CoolWaters
        • 6 Months Ago
        @CoolWaters
        But the real question is: How many "Christian" shareholders of Exxon are going to Hell? Because you did Nothing to get your CEO to Govern his company responsibly for the benefit of the Nation and the Earth.
          Samuel H
          • 6 Months Ago
          @CoolWaters
          You know nothing about Christianity as the Bible teaches it so please, just don't.
      jwfilippi
      • 6 Months Ago
      Gee... What a bunch of positive people here? I think the same things were said of ... Carbon fiber, contact lens, stainless steel, cell phones, kevlar, epoxy, the gasoline engine, electric motors, fiber optics, computers on and on and on and on and on... Have a great day!
      cove3
      • 5 Months Ago
      I don't agree that the tanks don't weigh much. I have a picture of what I think is the larger tank with a plate saying 85kg (almost 200 lbs). Assuming the 2d tank is 1/2 as big, that's almost 300 lbs right there. Add in the 24kwh battery at 700 lbs and 500-600 for the stack and you have a drive train of 1500-1600 lbs, as big or bigger than Tesla's long range batteries Ron
      CoolWaters
      • 6 Months Ago
      We've got a 10 STATE DROUGHT, going on, it is IMMORAL to continue to bull *hit about Idiot Solutions. We Need ACTION. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/data/pdfs/20140610/20140610_usdm.pdf
        danfred311
        • 6 Months Ago
        @CoolWaters
        some sort of concentration camp for tea party members and republicans would seem in order. maybe a GAS chamber :)
      Matthew
      • 6 Months Ago
      This is a wonderful development. It would be even better if the domestic manufacturers had FCEVs ready for their dealers' showrooms. However, the Japanese and Koreans are to be praised for pioneering commercial deployment of FCEV personal transportation. As for complaints about the relatively "most economy" of the Hyundai, it cannot be emphasized enough that it is a converted ICE vehicle. A vehicle designed from the ground up as a FCEV would undoubtedly have better economy. Of greater concern is the extent to which hydrogen production contributes to greenhouse gases. If it weren't so sad, then it would be funny how the very mention of hydrogen brings out opponents foaming at the mouth. To produce hydrogen, you need a hydrogen source compound and electricity. Of course, Shell wants to generate hydrogen from natural gas. This, however, does not mean that natural gas is the only source of hydrogen or that Shell is the only producer. Even if natural gas is the source, hydrogen can be produced from the vehicle owner's residential natural gas supply. However, everyone who took chemistry in high school knows that hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis of water. In addition to a source of water, a hydrogen generation station needs storage tank, a compressor, and a source of electricity. America's fastest growing source of electricity is solar. FCEV vehicles powered by hydrogen generated by solar-powered generation stations. What's not to like?
        Joeviocoe
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Matthew
        True.. Hydrogen can be made from a variety of sources. But the same was said for Ethanol and Biodiesel. You could even buy a Biodiesel processor for your garage for a few thousand dollars... but in reality, nobody really does that besides a few fringe tinkerers willing to pay a LOT more just to be independent of fuel providers. The vast majority of Hydrogen will be made from Steam and Natural Gas, because it is cheapest by far.. and will be done by large corporation distributing through stations, business as usual. Ultimately, never get your hopes up when faced with such a huge greenwashing campaign. The Natural Gas lobby is all over this.
        j
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Matthew
        I created hydrogen and oxygen with a hobbyist chemistry kit when I was 10 years old - no high school chemistry required for me. And yes the only place hydrogen is available in quantity is steam reformed NG. Economics of supply and demand inform us that making hydrogen from the most expensive available process will not be a widespread financial solution. If I asked why a sane person would generate electricity, to use three times as much energy to create hydrogen, compress hydrogen, pump hydrogen into tanks, convert hydrogen into electricity and run a motor, or simply use the electricity to run the motor, would there be a rational answer?
        j
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Matthew
        I created hydrogen and oxygen with a hobbyist chemistry kit when I was 10 years old - no high school chemistry required. And yes the only place hydrogen is available in quantity is steam reformed NG. Economics of supply and demand inform us that making hydrogen from the most expensive available process will not be a widespread financial solution. If I asked why a sane person would generate electricity, to use three times as much energy to create hydrogen, compress hydrogen, pump hydrogen into tanks, convert hydrogen into electricity and run a motor, or simply use the electricity to run the motor, would there be a rational answer?
      Joeviocoe
      • 6 Months Ago
      "With the Tucson Fuel Cell crossover, Hyundai has impressively crossed its T's and dotted its I's – there are no range issues, drivability concerns, fuel costs, or maintenance worries to speak of." What a fluff piece. There certainly are range issues - you can't drive anywhere except Southern CA. Moreover, the hydrogen MPG means you're getting the equivalent of 28 mpg in a gas car (well, at least in a Clarity), so where's the benefit for fuel costs? --gslippy Exactly right.
        Michael Harley
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        Why would I write a fluff piece? The vehicle goes 250-plus miles on a tank (no range issues), drives perfectly well (no operating issues), is free to fuel (no fuel costs) and maintenance is also free. I also very clearly stated that this car is best for those living in Los Angeles... Explain your accusation. - Mike
          Joeviocoe
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Michael Harley
          FCV advocates tend to "play the victim" here too... so much that any reasonable criticism of the article is merely discarded as blind persecution. The fact remains, you wrote at length about the good part of FCVs... that is fine. But you CANNOT write an article devoid of the word "Infrastructure", no mention of finding H2 stations, and writing, "offered for lease in Los Angeles and Orange Counties – two regions with the greatest density of approved hydrogen stations in the country"... ... and really think you would not be called out? What you wrote, and what you decided NOT to write, in addition to your spin of the "regions with greatest density"... says it all. Fluff! The truth you failed to mention, is that LA and Orange County is really ONE REGION.. and there is ZERO density outside of that area. The are only 2 other public H2 stations in the US. One in South Carolina and One in the Bay Area. You cannot have ANY DENSITY with just one.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Mr. Harley, Don't take it personally. Here on ABG, there is a rather large contingent who are unwilling to read *anything* positive regarding FCVs. I enjoyed your article, and I hope for some follow-ups as the Hyundai FCV fleet gains mileage. Likewise, first-drive impressions of the forthcoming Toyota FCV are high on my list to read about.
          paulwesterberg
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Michael Harley
          That last sentence about crossing all their T's makes it very clear that either you are ignorant(about the technology and lack of filling stations), incompetent(unaware of the performance offered by other more efficient vehicles) or an industry shill paid by hyundai, shell, or the hydrogen alliance oil front group. > Why would I write a fluff piece? Money probably. I hope your journalistic integrity was worth it.
          j
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Hi Mike I live in Los Angeles County. The nearest h2 refill station is about 100 miles away from me. Gives me a driving pattern of; 1 Drive 100 miles to fill up, 2 Drive 100 miles home, 3 Drive about fifty miles, 4 Figure out how to fill up empty FCEV. Please explain again how this is "best" for Los Angeles, with no range issues. (this time slowly, as I am not the brightest bulb in the chandelier)
      PeterScott
      • 6 Months Ago
      "there are no range issues, drivability concerns, fuel costs, or maintenance worries to speak of." As far as range. Tell me how I can just drive this to visit people in another state? As far as driveabilty concerns: 0-60 in 11.5 seconds. 1970 called and wants it's average speed back. As far as fuel. It is included in your rental agreement for $500/month. As far as maintenance, I seldom worry about that with a rental car. This still isn't a vehicle for sale, but instead paying to take part in beta testing, if you live close to one of the few H2 filling stations, that will significantly limit your travels.
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