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Until now, only Mercedes-Benz and Honda had debuted fuel-cell-powered cars on American roads.
Now Hyundai has joined their ranks.
On June 11, Californian Timothy Bush took possession of the South Korean carmaker’s first hydrogen fuel-cell auto to arrive in the United States. Hyundai is calling the car the first mass-produced vehicle of its kind.
Bush and other early customers will pay $499 per month for three years, with $2,999 down, to lease the Tucson Fuel Cell CUV.
Nevertheless, Hyundai is sweetening the deal by offering free refueling to drivers of its vehicle, which are basically electric, but without the long battery recharge times. Instead, the hydrogen fuel cells help generate electricity. The car has a driving range of about 265 miles and refueling takes about 10 minutes.
The best news, Hyundai says, is that the car emits no greenhouse gases, just water vapor. This is especially important in California, where tailpipe emissions from automotive internal-combustion engines account for about one-third of the state’s carbon-based pollution.
Energy and air-quality officials in California have had high praise for the arrival of Hyundai’s new import, but automotive analysts were more subdued, noting that it’s not the first hydrogen fuel-cell car to arrive in America, is expensive, and has few stations for refueling.
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They also note that Hyundai is making the Tucson Fuel Cell CUV available only in Los Angeles and Orange counties in Southern California because that’s about the only area where you’ll find hydrogen-refueling stations. California says it plans to build more stations statewide in the coming years.
And some analysts praised Hyundai for making the commitment to a clean-running car. “That’s a big deal,” said one analyst, Maryann Keller of Maryann Keller & Associates.
Still, they point out that the U.S.-based Tesla also provides free refueling for its Model S electric cars. What may be more worrying to Hyundai is that Tesla has greatly expanded its network of charging stations, known as Superchargers.
How thorough is Tesla’s geographic saturation? In February, two teams of Tesla employees in Model S cars completed a drive from Los Angeles to New York, relying entirely on the company’s recharging stations.
By Andy Tully of OIlprice.com
Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com