The mass production of hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles in the U.S. is now official, with the first zero-emissions car being driven off a lot in the southern California town of Tustin this week. This was celebrated by state energy and air-quality officials as a major milestone in the effort to reduce tailpipe pollution that makes up a third of the states total greenhouse gas emissions.
Analysts in the auto industry were less enthusiastic, saying that non-emission fuel cell vehicles have been available from other manufacturers such as Honda and Mercedes-Benz, but in limited numbers. They say that the high cost of producing the vehicles coupled with the low number of refueling stations would curtail market growth for the foreseeable future, but praised Hyundai for making the commitment to hydrogen technology.
The keys for the first new Tuscon fuel cell-powered were handed over to the first U.S. buyer, Timothy Bush in an official ceremony at Tustin Hyundai. Mr. Bush leased the car with a $2,999 down payment and monthly payments of $499. As an extra incentive, the terms include an unlimited free hydrogen refueling and maintenance service at any of the three participating dealerships in southern California during the three-year, 36,000 mile life of the lease. The cars are not yet available for sale, say Hyundai officials. They declined to say how many fuel cell vehicles will be produced this year or how many have been ordered.
The Tuscon fuel cell is identical to the gas version, a four-door with a rear hatch. It is now available only in white for lease only, and is currently produced at the Hyundai Tuscon plant in Uslan, South Korea. The car can be refueled in ten minutes, and has a range of 265 miles per fill up with minimal ill-effects in cold weather, which is comparable to other plug-ins.
The hydrogen fuel cell produces power using an electrochemical process involving hydrogen gas and no combustion or moving parts. The only emissions are water vapor. California’s goal is to have 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles, including fuel cell cars, on the road by 2025.