Last month, Hyundai said that the initial deliveries of the Tucson Fuel Cell vehicles in California meant that, "For the first time, retail consumers can now put a mass-produced, federally-certified hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in their driveways." But try telling that to Jon Spallino.

In 2005, Honda leased a hydrogen fuel cell FCX, a small hatchback, to the Spallino family (as far as we know, he parked it in his driveway). The company did the same thing again in 2008 with the FCX Clarity, a sleek new design based on the FCX Concept, and others signed for the H2 ride as well, including celebrities. No matter how you slice it, Honda has been in the fuel cell delivery market for almost a decade now. Just look at this. Or this. Or this. Oh, and other automakers (General Motors in Project Driveway in 2006 and Mercdes-Benz with the F-Cell in 2010, for example) have delivered fuel cell vehicles in the US as part of short-term test programs.

But let's get back to Hyundai's claim. There's little question that the first delivery of a "fuel cell vehicle for the US market" has already taken place (and they were federally certified, too), which means that the debate revolves around the definition of mass-produced and whether "mass production" is about a number or about the process? Let's investigate below.

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell Deliveries

First, lets review Honda's bona fides. We can start with the official version of Honda's fuel cell history, which is missing the pertinent detail that Honda build the Clarity on a dedicated assembly line and established a small network of three dealerships to lease the FCX Clarity in 2008. All of the FCX Clarity vehicles in customer hands in the US were leased through these dealerships. Sure, Honda started with hand-built stacks in its hydrogen vehicles, but went to automated control of some parts and components with series production.

"It is good to see others doing today what we've been doing since 2008" – Steve Ellis, Honda

Or, as Honda's Steve Elllis put it to AutoblogGreen regarding Hyundai's fuel cell deliveries: "This was exactly as prescribed by the creation of the California Fuel Cell Partnership. It's the very essence of 'co-op-itition.' We at Honda, as do many others, continue to push forward on many technologies, both the battery and the fuel cell. And society is the beneficiary." Then he added, "It is good to see others doing today what we've been doing since 2008."

Now, how does Hyundai compare? The Tucson Fuel Cell and the gasoline version are built in the same factory in Ulsan, Korea. Body-in-white and related chassis components for both versions are assembled in this plant and components for the fuel cell model are added from a spur line assembly process. So, it certainly fits the mass production definition.

Honda has leased just 44 Clarity fuel cell vehicles in the US since 2008.

According to the official monthly sales numbers, Honda has leased just 44 Clarity fuel cell vehicles in the US since 2008. Where Hyundai might have the advantage is that it plans to lease at least 1,000 Tucson fuel cell vehicles in the US has the capability to build up to 1,000 Tucson fuel cell units globally through the end of 2015. Like Honda all those years ago, Hyundai is going to lease the Tucson Fuel Cell from three dealerships (Tustin Hyundai, Win Hyundai in Carson and Hardin Hyundai in Anaheim). So, what's different? Is it the 1,000 units? Hyundai's product public relations manager, Derek Joyce, told AutoblogGreen that the company isn't taking the number of vehicles produced into account. "We are referring specifically to the method of production, 'mass-production' referring to assembly-line types of processes for the Tucson Fuel Cell," he said. That's pretty close to Honda's definition of what was happening in 2008, don't you think?

UPDATE: The number of Tucson Fuel Cell vehicles destined to be built and leased has been corrected. We regret the error.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 62 Comments
      churchmotor
      • 6 Months Ago
      Clearly 2005 predated 2015. But then again, Hyundai can't even calculate mpg.
      methos1999
      • 6 Months Ago
      My biggest gripe is that they're all leased. This means the companies still technically own them, and can reclaim and destroy them once the lease is over (like GM did with the EV1). My personal opinion is that fuel cell cars will be real when they are available for straight up purchase - at any price. Until then, these cars are simply Beta tests for the car companies. We'll see who truly makes a fuel cell car for sale first.
        Dean Hammond
        • 6 Months Ago
        @methos1999
        my $ is on Toyota, they started the hybrid market and basically OWN it now, and they have said they think Fuel Cells is the future, if i was a purely electric or a manufacturer with a large stake in Hybrids, I would be watching carefully......and probably with sweaty palms...
      windexsunday
      • 6 Months Ago
      Nobody cares except Honda and Hyundai.
        JDubbs115
        • 6 Months Ago
        @windexsunday
        Agreed. And apparently Autoblog, who continues to report on a non-issue.
          churchmotor
          • 6 Months Ago
          @JDubbs115
          Nightflight, I'm shocked you are not trying to convince everyone the Hyundai is first.
      Joeviocoe
      • 6 Months Ago
      The Prius sold nearly 18,000 in IT'S FIRST YEAR. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Prius#Sales That was "mass" market.
      Marco Polo
      • 6 Months Ago
      @ Grendal That just illustrates the blind fanaticism of anti-HFCV haters. If HFCV/H2 technology could prove successful in powering shipping, even in just 20 large container ships, it would equal all the harmful emissions of the world's entire road transport fleet ! Yet, as you can witness, there are those here on ABG, whose hatred of HFCV/H2 technology is so great that they just don't care about anything except their chosen "side". Very sad.
      Marco Polo
      • 6 Months Ago
      @ Joeviocoe Well , you did seem to think it was a good idea, or why would you mention it ? Sky sails are one of those idea's that seem really good, if you ignore the practicability ! It fact the dynamics of getting it to work, are impossible in practice, and certainly not worth any dubious benefit. Sadly, the German company behind the project, went broke. I spend a lot of time, (and money) helping the campaign to abolish No. 6 Marine grade fuel (bunker oil). I also am constantly looking to support of invest in any technology that will help end the use of this method of fuelling shipping. Bunker oil is the single largest contributor to both climate change and bio-spheric pollution. It's for this reason I have attended Bilderberg conferences (and similar) where I seek support, and an interchange of ideas about the difficulties, and potential to make this product obsolete. I have helped in the clean-up of ships leaking bunker oil after running around and I can assure you that the devastation is much work than the effects of crude oil. For those living in the Northern hemisphere, it's particularly alarming, since there are between 100-200,000 reported deaths per year attributed to this form of pollution, and more than 4 million people annually will contract some form of cancer , directly attributable to this insidious product. The most recent research show that these figures may be significantly underestimated since toxic carcinogens have been building up in the food chain for decades, and gone completely unnoticed. Actually, I wasn't specifically referring to you in my comment to Grendal. However, much I disagree with your stance on HFCV passenger vehicles, I believe you are far too intelligent to dismiss H2 as a potential fuel for shipping. My exasperation, was directed at those who thought that any comment mentioning H2, no matter how accurate or beneficial, should be down-rated.
      Dana Lacoste
      • 6 Months Ago
      I agree with methos99: I drive an electric Fiat 500 (awesome car, btw) and am looking at the Tucson as a replacement once this lease is up, but I do NOT like the "lease only, no buyout at end of lease option" : Hyundai isn't selling the car, they're only charging a large amount for a lease. My wife had a Tucson, I'm familiar with the vehicle and LOVE the idea of a fuel cell powered version, so please, Hyundai, SELL me one! Not "let me borrow it for a couple of years"......
        krona2k
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dana Lacoste
        Keep begging, not going to happen. I personally don't think you will be able to buy a fuel cell vehicle next year despite Toyota's and Honda's claims to the contrary. Who knows, maybe they're not lying this time.
        Dean Hammond
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dana Lacoste
        arent you leasing the fiat?....
      krona2k
      • 6 Months Ago
      It's all irrelevant when you consider that a so called niche manufacturer that doesn't even advertize is likely to be producing 1000 cars *a week* by the end of the year!
      • 6 Months Ago
      I was in line for one of these, there are only 38 available for California. The price of the lease wasn't the problem, the mileage terms of the lease being only 12K per year for me was the downfall as i drive double that. These vehicles aren't going to be mass produced any time soon for a few of the following reasons. The first reason is the mandate by the California Air Resource Board for vehicle manufacturers to have a small percentage of zero emissions vehicles in order to sell their other vehicles. The profit margin isn't there for these to be mass produced. The second reason is the fuel cell stack is very expensive with all the platinum plates being used, issues in cold climates are also a factor, the fuel cell stack was having a hard time staying at temperature while testing in frigid U.S. cold winter weather, then you wonder who is going to maintain them, i mean your local mechanic may be referring you to go to the dealership. Third, the infrastructure isn't set to handle refilling of hydrogen tanks on a mass scale (clearly many times more than CNG), the solution there is on board electrolyzers - hydrogen on demand, but then hydrogen suppliers will loose revenue so build your own. Please visit the Hydrogen Expo in Los Angeles this Nov 10, attend the Expo for free and be aware of the technology. The Toyota hydrogen vehicle will not be as great as this Tucson, simply because the Fuel Cell capital of the world is South Korea. I've been designing and testing Fuel Cells for a lil under a decade for the auto racing world and its great to see technology coming making great strides.
        Jesse Gurr
        • 6 Months Ago
        Where are you going to get the energy for the onboard electrolyzer? It will never be viable. Are you really that stupid to believe that? If you expend 60kWh to make 1kg and the only get 20kWh out of it since the fuel cell is 60% efficient, what do you think will happen? On a side note, did you know that "gullible" isn't in the dictionary?
          Joeviocoe
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Jesse Gurr
          And Marco fell for it
          Marco Polo
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Jesse Gurr
          @ Jesse Gurr, Maybe not in your dictionary, but "gullible" is included in the Oxford, Collins, Webster dictionaries. EG: Oxford - gullible Line breaks: gul|lible Pronunciation: /ˈgʌlɪb(ə)l / adjective= Easily persuaded, to believe something; credulous:
      Joeviocoe
      • 6 Months Ago
      Hydrogen lobbyists have decades worth of experience in PR spin.... so now they are audacious enough to redefine the word "mass". Newsflash.. you cannot claim "mass production" if you have built fewer cars than Jay Leno owns.
        Spec
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        The Higgs-Boson is involved thus there is 'mass' involved.
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        Auto manufactures changed "EV" to " plug in vehicle". They changed "lease" to "sale". They "changed hand built" to "mass". Clean coal and clean diesel are two other miss leading terms. Welcome to greenwashing. The auto manufactures and the lobbyist seem to change the definitions of words to suit their PR advertisement campaign.
          Marco Polo
          • 2 Days Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          @ EVSUPERHERO, You are quite right, but then using the most favourable terms (even inventing some) to make any description more acceptable, is hardly new ! This form of ambiguous language is a old as language itself. It's not just auto-makers and lobbyists, but everyone in all walks of life that's a little guilty of ...ah.." gilding the lily :)
      Grendal
      • 6 Months Ago
      No matter what, it will take quite a while. The Prius when rolled out was fueled by gasoline which was, and is, readily available. Compressed hydrogen at a convenient nearby station is not so easy to come by no matter how big a company Toyota is. There is a big difference between experimenting with new technology and spending $20 to $50 billion to roll out mass production and all the infrastructure to back it. With help and demand it can happen but it will take time.
      churchmotor
      • 6 Months Ago
      Honda is too classy of a car company to get into a silly pissing match with a dishonest Korean company.
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