The very first 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell crossover vehicle was delivered yesterday to its lessee, Timothy Bush, in a ceremony that attracted both Hyundai executives and California government dignitaries.
The keys to the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, leased for three years at $499 a month with $2,999 down, were given to Bush at Tustin Hyundai yesterday morning.
“My family is certainly excited to be doing their part in driving a zero-emission vehicle that benefits the environment," Bush said in a Hyundai press release, "and at the same time, reduces our nation’s dependence on imported fuels."
Hyundai provides the hydrogen fuel free for the life of the lease, though drivers presently have just a small selection of fueling stations available--which restricts the leases to customers living in specific areas of Los Angeles and Orange County.
The Tucson is the first mass-produced hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to be offered to select California drivers since the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell program a few years ago, which totaled only several dozen leases.
The only other hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle offered for lease was the Honda FCX Clarity, of which 44 were leased between 2008 and the end of 2013.
2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell at hydrogen fueling station, Fountain Valley, CAEnlarge Photo
General Motors offered 100 or so Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell crossovers on short loans as part of its Project Driveway program, beginning in 2007 and running through roughly 2011. BMW did the same with a handful of BMW 7-Series Hydrogen prototypes that burned hydrogen in their V-8 engines.
In its promotional material, Hyundai suggests that the Tucson Fuel Cell "alleviate[s] the limitations of traditional battery electric vehicles" and that it represents "the next generation of electric vehicles–those that create their own electricity, on-board, from hydrogen."
It retains the range of a gasoline Tucson--the hydrogen version's range is estimated at 265 miles--and refueling times of 10 minutes or less.
Hyundai also cites a 2013 study by the University of California, Irvine, comparing the wells-to-wheels carbon emissions of electric, hydrogen fuel-cell, and gasoline vehicles. (See our analysis of that study in the link above.)
The fuel-cell vehicle, Hyundai says, combines the benefits of a battery-electric car (zero emissions, instant torque, silent operation) with longer range, quicker refueling, and minimal impact of cold weather.
In 2012, a mere 27 hydrogen fueling stations were built worldwide. But last fall, California committed $20 million per year through 2024 to building up to 100 hydrogen stations, with a goal of having 70 hydrogen fueling stations by 2016.
2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell at Hyundai headquarters, Fountain Valley, CAEnlarge Photo
Given the paucity of hydrogen fueling stations today, the Tucson Fuel Cell is offered for lease at just three Southern California Hyundai dealerships: Hardin Hyundai in Anaheim, , Tustin Hyundai, and Win Hyundai in Carson.
In addition to free hydrogen fuel, lessees are provided with the Hyundai "At Your Service Valet Maintenance" services, previously offered only to buyers of the Hyundai Equus large luxury sedan.
Production of the Tucson Fuel Cell for the U.S. market began in April. It is assembled on the same production line at Hyundai's Pusan plant in Korea as are the conventional gasoline and diesel versions of the Tucson crossover.
The company says it has put more than 2 million miles to date on its fuel-cell test fleet since 2000.