As one of the big dissenters from the battery-powered EV lovetrain, Hyundai is about to put its money on Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology. Starting in 2015, it intends to assemble up to 10,000 units of a fuel cell-powered version of the Tucson crossover at its plant in Ulsan, South Korea.
One Hyundai officially we spoke to gave a few reasons for the company’s decision to pursue hydrogen fuel cells rather than battery-powered EVs. According to him, hydrogen powertrains are easy to scale to nearly any vehicle size, whereas EV batteries “have a logarithmic function between range, performance cost and vehicle size.” A battery with increased range is much heavier, costlier and takes longer to refuel. Fuel cells on the other hand, don’t have that problem, and take roughly 9-10 minutes to “refuel”, while range is typically around 400 miles.
Hyundai has also apparently reached a point where cost reduction and economies of scale are making fuel cells viable for the mass market. The next step will of course be the infrastructure Their internal research shows that fueling stations need to be within 5 miles of one’s home to be viable, and the question of who will chip in to help build that network (government, private corporations or private-public partnerships) is still up in the air on a larger scale – but Hyundai and the U.S. government recently announced a partnership to help advance the network of hydrogen stations across America.