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Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell hits Californian roads with free hydrogen


June 11, 2014

The Tucson Fuel Cell is available in the US for a US$499/month lease

The Tucson Fuel Cell is available in the US for a US$499/month lease

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The hydrogen economy sounds great, and has ever since it was first proposed in the 1970s. The tricky bit is how to get there, because without the necessary infrastructure, a fuel cell car that runs on hydrogen is little more than a conversation piece. As Hyundai delivers its first Tucson Fuel Cell CUV to its new lessee, Timothy Bush, the South Korean carmaker unveiled its plan to jump-start the hydrogen car economy by giving the fuel away to its customers.

When Tustin Hyundai’s Dealer Principal, John Patterson, handed the keys of Hyundai’s first Tucson Fuel Cell to Bush on Monday, it marked the first time that a federally certified fuel cell car has been available to retail customers. According to Hyundai, the hydrogen-fueled Tucson has a number of advantages over electric cars.

Based on the petrol-powered Tucson, also called the ix35 outside the US market, the Tucson Fuel Cell, as it says on the tin, uses a fuel cell instead of an internal combustion engine. The fuel cell creates electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen across a solid catalyst that triggers an electrochemical reaction instead of combustion.

According to Hyundai, the Tucson Fuel Cell has performance comparable to that of an electric vehicle, including the instant torque of the electric car, the lack of noise, and a similar mechanical simplicity because the fuel cell has no moving parts. The Tucson has a range of 265 mi (426 km), refuels in 10 minutes, and the only emissions it produces is water vapor.

This is all well and good, but the problem with the Tucson Fuel Cell car is that currently faced by every other hydrogen powered vehicle – how do you fill up the tank? At least with an electric car, you can always plug it into the mains overnight, but its a rare house that has a hydrogen pipe installed. So, how to make the transition from petrol engined cars to hydrogen while bypassing the electrics? Hyundai’s solution is a special leasing agreement.

Instead of selling the Tucson Fuel Cell outright, Hyundai is providing the cars under a 36-month term lease agreement with US$2,999 down and $499 per month. The clever bit is that Hyundai picks up the cost of the hydrogen fuel and provides it to its customers free of charge as an inducement while the company develops its refueling network. In addition, the lessees will get Hyundai’s At Your Service Valet Maintenance program, where a faulty vehicle is picked up by a Hyundai dealer, who provides a loaner at no charge while repairs are made.

The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell is backed by the California Air Resources Board, and has completed two million test miles since 2000, as well as a series of crash and safety tests. Hyundai began mass production in April in South Korea for the US market. One reason that California was selected for the rollout is that the state government is committed to building 100 hydrogen fueling stations. Toward this end, the state is spending $44.5 million to build 28 stations and one mobile refueler, which will bring the number of stations currently in some stage of development to 50.

"Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles represent the next generation of zero-emission vehicle technology, and we’re thrilled to be a leader in offering the mass-produced Tucson Fuel Cell to our first retail customer," says Dave Zuchowski, president and chief executive officer, Hyundai Motor America. "The range and refueling speed of our new Tucson Fuel Cell compares favorably with gasoline vehicles, making them a seamless transition for our customers from traditional gasoline vehicles. We’re sure that fuel cell technology will increase the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, and that everyone will benefit. The commitment of the State of California and their support in creating a hydrogen fueling infrastructure has been an important part of our decision to offer this fuel cell vehicle to the public."

The Tucson Fuel Cell CUV is available from three southern California Hyundai dealers in the Los Angeles/Orange County region: Win Hyundai in Carson, Tustin Hyundai, and Hardin Hyundai in Anaheim.

Source: Hyundai

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

This is awesome once the hydrogen is generated by solar, but I'm afraid for now this car runs on fuel from good ol' crude, steam reformed at the refinery into hydrogen.


Same approach that Tesla takes, I see. In the long run, however, it will be more expensive than electric. Better to focus on gasoline efficiency while electric comes down in price.


I think that is really cool. I think fuel cell vehicles is the future. They are - IMO - better than just battery powered cars. I think a fuel cell would be great in a fuel cell battery hybrid.

I have read about devices that one can refuel a fuel cell tank at home. I have read about several companies that make them. If one is not using to travel far (just in the area where one lives), one could refuel at home with a home hydrogen system.

I think it is easier to clean up one gas powered plant (no need to worry about how light it is since it stays in one place) than to clean up all those gas powered cars. There are also other green ways to produce hydrogen than gas powered plants. There are working on practical solutions (like getting hydrogen from algae, from natural gas, etc).


BigWarpGuy: read something about how expensive it is to produce the hydrogen, how much energy u need to break the chemical bond and then talk about algae.. ;)

Anna Gardavska

How can you people be so blinded and think any sort of changing the form of energy is a good thing Back where it all starts from there is the fact they are the ones polluting everything, making charging and change of energy, same game different field. There is no benefit except to poison a given area to it's limit and remove the poisons from where we all see it. Yes you will breath a little better for a short while, but eventually one will be back to the same thing, at a much higher cost


This is awesome. I agree with some of the other comments. Making it a battery/fuel cell hybrid would save money. Right now fuel cells cost a ton. Instead of sizing the cell for 150kw output (roughly a 200hp peak) you'd be able to size it to 50kw and let the battery/capacitor smooth out the peaks.

As for the sources of hydrogen there are many ways to create hydrogen. The best I have seen is very simple. It uses extreme heat to break water into oxygen and hydrogen. That was actually what blew up at Fukushima. The over heating core sepparated part of the coolant water and caused a hydrogen build up. Using LFTR to generate the required heat would be more evironmentally sound than paving every flat surface in the country with solar cells that would still not produce enough hydrogen to meet the fuel demands of the US.


So if I can't leave town and refuel, what is the benefit of electric? You can recharge on electric virtually anywhere in the country, not so with hydrogen. H2 refueling stations are orders of magnitude more expensive than an EV charging plug. I always though fuel cells would be the future, but I really don't see how they can be. Batteries are a far better option, and seem to be staying well ahead of fuel cells.


fuel cells are not the solution.

Spark EV Leaf BMW i3 Model S

EV's like these are.


No one mentioned that hydrogen gas is terribly explosive in almost all mixtures with air and very easy to ignite. Why use electricity to make hydrogen just to use hydrogen to generate electricity again? Developing a better way to store electricity without converting it back and forth chemically would be a better expenditure in research. Some form of capacitor will probably replace batteries some day. Since almost every road in the country is paralleled by power lines, why not run them under the roads and use inductive charging?


I am realizing that in the USA car makers are not bringing new technologies to replace from the old internal combustion engines and the USA citizens and goverments are slaves from the big oil corporations and producers, it is shame the Japan, South Korea and Germany are begining to make cars with new technologies, where are the technician car builders in the USA?. Now comming about making cheap hydrogen from natural gas with a cold plasma reactors geting hydrogen and carbon as high quality carbon black with almost zero emmisions, there are in Norway, UK, Poland, South Korea and others technologies, why in the USA is behind to any new technology?.

Esteban Sperber Frankel

Fuel cell car so good we have to bribe you with free fuel to make you consider it.

@ BeWalt Natural gas or coal. 0il is too valuable elsewhere.

@ Bob You have a unreasonable fear of Hydrogen.


This is an interesting machine. I won't try to read the future like so many here--I don't know if H2 or batteries will win out but I think it is a great idea to develop both concepts as California is doing and let it play out for 5 or so years. H2, electric, hybrid and clean diesel and others may all find their niches.

Al Mayberry

Again, nice machine with value to be seen as it gets used. One major/essential piece left untouched by this article is the question of what is the source of Hydrogen--which is supposed to be the deal breaker by some accounts. 1--Do the Hundai fuel cell customers go the the dealer to refuel? Have a tank at home? Range? 2--How is the Hydrogen made? There are a number of ways but one common one is extracting it from natural gas which creates pollution. What does the California Air Board think of that?!? Anyone know of a good discussion of all this?

Al Mayberry

At last! The fueling infrastructure will develop with the availability of vehicles. Using solar energy to crack hydrogen out of sea water would close the loop. Think in terms of large scale solar arrays in the desert states with water piped in from the coast. Desalination and H production could happen side-by-side.

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