Next-generation Hyundai hydrogen fuel cells due in 2018


2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell at Hyundai headquarters, Fountain Valley, CA

2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell at Hyundai headquarters, Fountain Valley, CA

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The current Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell was the first of the most recent crop of hydrogen fuel-cell cars to go on sale, with the first U.S. deliveries taking place back in June 2014.

Since then, Hyundai has built about 1,000 of the fuel-cell crossovers for worldwide consumption, with U.S. sales limited to certain regions of California.

But now Hyundai is looking toward its next-generation fuel-cell powertrain—and a new model to put it in.

DON'T MISS: Hyundai's Genesis luxury brand will offer plug-in hybrids, then fuel cells

The powertrain will debut in 2018, timed to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Hyundai's home country of South Korea, reports Automotive News (subscription required).

Hyundai plans to make a "big event" out of the Winter Olympics, viewing them as a potential PR booster, Ahn Byung-ki—Hyundai eco-vehicle development director—said in an interview with the industry trade journal.

The Pyeonchang Games will give Hyundai a chance to show off its fuel-cell technology, just as Toyota plans to do with its own hydrogen-powered vehicles at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

First 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell delivered to lessee at Tustin Hyundai, June 2014

First 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell delivered to lessee at Tustin Hyundai, June 2014

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Hyundai's new fuel cells will be smaller and use less platinum. They will be paired with a new electric motor that is both smaller and more powerful than the current version, Ahn said.

He said the powertrain will debut in a "totally new" vehicle that is "somewhere between a CUV and an SUV."

The term "CUV" meaning "crossover-utility vehicle" generally refers to a utility vehicle that uses a unitized platform typically shared with a car, as a opposed to traditional SUVs, which use a traditional body-on-frame construction like a pickup truck.

ALSO SEE: Next Hyundai fuel-cell vehicle to be another SUV

The terms are sometimes used interchangeably to describe utility vehicles, as the number of traditional SUVs has declined significantly.

In this case, it's possible that Ahn may be referring to a vehicle that incorporates a mix of traditional SUV and car design elements, since it is unlikely the new fuel-cell model will have an old-school body-on-frame design.

Ahn's comments echo previous reports that the next Hyundai fuel-cell model will be another utility vehicle.

2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell at hydrogen fueling station, Fountain Valley, CA

2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell at hydrogen fueling station, Fountain Valley, CA

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Back in December, Hyundai fuel-cell research boss Sae-Hoon Kim said Hyundai would launch a second-generation fuel-cell vehicle with a range of 400 miles by 2020.

He said the new model would ride on a dedicated platform, as opposed to the current Tucson Fuel Cell, which is based on the previous-generation version of Hyundai's compact crossover.

Then in March, British car magazine Autocar reported that the new model would in fact be a utility vehicle, and that it would be marketed more aggressively to individual consumers.

MORE: Hyundai To Launch 400-Mile Fuel-Cell SUV By 2020: Report

The majority of deliveries of the current Tucson Fuel Cell have been to fleets.

Whatever form it takes, the next Hyundai fuel-cell model may well spawn a version from Hyundai's sister brand Kia as well.

Hyundai's newly-formed Genesis luxury brand could also get a fuel-cell vehicle, alongside battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models.

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