Hyundai's new fuel-cell electric concept points toward its eco-car road map

August 17, 2017

Offering a preview of a yet-unnamed vehicle that it will fully introduce in early 2018, Hyundai lifted the veil off a new hydrogen fuel-cell-powered SUV on Thursday. It also announced plans for three new battery powered electric vehicles that will debut in the next few years, as the Korean automaker looks to keep pace with industry leaders.

Hyundai claims the new fuel cell system is up to nine percent more efficient, enabling the SUV to travel up to 360 miles on a single charge. Part of this is down to a more efficient hydrogen storage system, which includes resized tanks and a new layering system that reduces overall thickness.

MORE: Does Hyundai prefer hydrogen over electricity?

The SUV produces over 160 hp, a 20 percent increase over the current Tucson Fuel Cell, and is capable of starting in temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit. That number happens to coincide with winter temperatures in Canada’s Northern Territory, where multiple automakers conduct winter endurance testing.

While it still touts hydrogen fuel cell technology as the future of eco-friendly vehicles, Hyundai Motor (which includes Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis) also announced a short and medium term shift toward battery powered electrification. One reason is that fuel cell technology needs a lot of research and infrastructure development time before it truly becomes cost-effective.

According to some estimates, it could be as far off as 2035 before Hyundai can mass produce hydrogen vehicles efficiently. Combined with Chinese policies that heavily favor battery power, Hyundai has plenty of incentive to switch to battery power for the time being.

Hyundai FCEV concept

Hyundai FCEV concept

Enlarge Photo

With that in mind, the automaker’s new product pipeline features 31 eco-friendly vehicles, including eight battery powered cars and two that feature fuel cells.

The first to hit the roads will be an electric version of the Hyundai Kona crossover, which will debut next year with an expected range of 242 miles, putting it right on par with GM’s Bolt EV and just ahead of the base Tesla Model 3.

By 2021, Genesis will launch its own luxury EV model, and after that, Hyundai will produce a long-range EV that can cover 360 miles on a single charge.

Simultaneously, Hyundai Motor is developing its first purely electric shared platform, which means it could be used as the basis on which multiple EV models are built.

As a reminder that it still believes in the long-term viability of hydrogen power, Hyundai Motor announced plans to reveal a hydrogen powered bus before the end of the year.

-- by Aaron Miller

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