Both Honda and Toyota have been heavily involved in the development of fuel cell vehicles – with Honda even placing 200 of its FCX Clarity models in the hands of Southern California drivers over a 3-year period of time.
But this past Wednesday at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show it was Korean automaker Hyundai that threw down the gauntlet, announcing that in the spring of next year it will begin offering its next-generation Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle through a small group of select Hyundai dealers stating that "For the first time, retail consumers will be able to put a mass-produced, federally certified hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in their driveways."
Hyundai has even sweetened the deal by noting that the monthly lease price also will include unlimited free hydrogen refueling as well as their At Your Service Valet Maintenance – a service that includes vehicle pick-up and delivery at the customer's home or office.
Competition heats up
During the vehicle's introduction, Hyundai president and CEO John Krafcik also took a jab at the current crop of battery electric vehicles.
"Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles represent the next generation of zero-emission vehicle technology, so we're thrilled to be a leader in offering the mass-produced, federally certified Tucson Fuel Cell to retail customers," said Krafcik. "The superior range and fast-fill refueling speed of our Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle contrast with the lower range and slow-charge characteristics of competing battery electric vehicles. We think fuel cell technology will increase the adoption rate of zero-emission vehicles, and we'll all share the environmental benefits."
The price of admission
But if you live outside the Los Angeles/Orange County region you can forget about those benefits – at least for now – as that's the only region the 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell will initially be offered to retail customers.
But for those who do qualify, the price will be $2,999 down and $499 per month for a 36-month term. And let's not forget that includes unlimited hydrogen – a perk for some high-mileage drivers that may come close to covering the cost of admission.
"When we spoke to customers interesting in driving a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, many wondered what the cost of hydrogen would be," said John Krafcik. "To ease those concerns as we build-out the hydrogen refueling network, we thought covering this cost for these early adopters in the monthly payment was the best approach, and consistent with other aspects of our Hyundai Assurance program.
Hyundai has already announced the names of the first four Hyundai dealers. They are Hardin Hyundai in Anaheim, Win Hyundai in Carson, Keyes Hyundai in Van Nuys and Tustin Hyundai.
Hyundai also stated that there will be additional Hyundai dealers to follow. In addition, the company noted that the availability of the Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle will expand to other regions of the country "consistent with the accelerating deployment of hydrogen refueling stations."