Hyundai FE Fuel Cell Concept previews hydrogen-powered SUV coming in 2018

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The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell was actually the first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle offered to U.S. drivers in recent years.

The 2016 Toyota Mirai that followed it has now outsold Hyundai's hydrogen-powered SUV, but it's been known for a couple of years that the Korean maker will replace that model.

At this week's Geneva auto show, the company unveiled the Hyundai FE Fuel Concept, which gives us a sense of what the next hydrogen vehicle will be like.

DON'T MISS: Next Hyundai Fuel Cell SUV to have 30 percent more range

Hyundai is sticking with the SUV format, to distinguish its offering from the Toyota Mirai now on sale and the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell whose sales started in December.

Both of those cars are four-door sedans, a struggling segment, while the Hyundai is crossover utility vehicle that looks to sit on roughly a compact footprint.

Sales of crossovers and SUVs are surging, in the U.S. and other markets too, positioning this hydrogen vehicle in a growing market.

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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While the Tucson Fuel Cell was rated at 265 miles of range, and its 0-to-60-mph acceleration was a leisurely 12.5 seconds, the new FE concept improves on one of those areas in a big way.

Hyundai says the FE can cover 800 kilometers (500 miles) on a single hydrogen refill.

READ THIS: Next-generation Hyundai hydrogen fuel cells due in 2018

That's likely based on the European test cycle, but it could well exceed the rated U.S. ranges of the Mirai (312 miles) and the Clarity Fuel Cell (365 miles).

The company says the FE's hydrogen powertrain is 20 percent lighter, 10 percent more efficient, and produces more power from its fuel-cell stack.

Hyundai FE Fuel Cell concept, 2017 Geneva auto show

Hyundai FE Fuel Cell concept, 2017 Geneva auto show

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Like most concept cars, the fuel-cell SUV has its share of glitzy and attention-getting features that likely won't make it into production.

One is an integrated charging space in the trunk for an electric scooter, for instance.

CHECK OUT: Next Hyundai fuel-cell vehicle to be another SUV (Mar 2016)

The FE concept also features portable battery packs that users can recharge inside the vehicle and then use to charge their gadgets wherever they may go.

The design, Hyundai says, is "flowing" and "inspired by nature and water."

Hyundai FE Fuel Cell concept, 2017 Geneva auto show

Hyundai FE Fuel Cell concept, 2017 Geneva auto show

Enlarge Photo

That last is a quiet reference to the otherwise zero-emission nature of a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, whose only tailpipe emission is water.

The production version of this Hyundai fuel-cell crossover utility vehicle is expected to become available during 2018 in a handful of markets.

ALSO SEE: Kia to focus on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles before electrics, chief engineer says

While Hyundai said little in Geneva about the challenges of developing a workable, widespread hydrogen fueling infrastructure, the production version will likely be offered State-side only in the state of California to start with.

With a few dozen hydrogen fueling stations now live, and more planned by 2020, it's possible to drive a hydrogen-powered vehicle from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area and back agin.

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