2015 Hyundai Tucson FCEV: Hydrogen powered SUV uses no gas!

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Hyundai-Tucson-Fuel-Cell pic 1By Veeno Dewan

One of the most interesting vehicles to come my way recently was a 2015 Hyundai Tucson FCEV. This is no ordinary SUV, hybrid or electric plug in vehicle, but is powered solely by hydrogen gas! Hyundai is releasing a few of these Tucson FCEV’s in Vancouver for evaluation on a leasing program. Not I said leasing as the Tucson FDEV is not on sale for now, although Hyundai have hopes of producing 10,000 units to the market. So what exactly is an FCEV and how does the hydrogen powered system work? So what exactly is an FCEV?

2015-Hyundai-Fuel-CellWell, the FCEV uses only hydrogen to power its electric motors. The process works as follows. hydrogen is pumped into a special 144 liter tank in the Tucson at a dedicated hydrogen station. The FCEV then uses the hydrogen in an electrochemical process that combines oxygen and the compressed hydrogen gas in the on-board fuel cell stack. Electric power generated by the fuel stack powers the vehicle’s electric motor and charges the battery. Amazingly, the only exhaust emission is pure water vapour, resulting in zero greenhouse gas emissions. There is no combustion of hydrogen and the fuel itself has no moving parts. It takes about five minutes to refuel the Tucson FCEV’s 144-litre tank, and it has an estimated range of 426 kilometres.

The Hyundai Tucson FCEV looks like a normal Tucson – although our tester had prominent graphics advertising its FCEV credentials. The only differences are some exterior badging an E selection on the gear shifter and at higher rear cargo floor. Equipment list and interior comforts remain the same, with Hyundai typical high spec for a decent price that includes heated seats front and rear, full power operated creature comforts, Bluetooth connectivity and a Nav system operated through a centre-mounted colour touchscreen.

2015-Hyundai-Tucson-interiorThere are some thing to be aware of, although the Hyundai YUNDAI FCEV means better mileage range and an end to the recharge time of plug in electric vehicles; there is only one public compressed hydrogen gas fuelling station in Metro Vancouver in the municipality of Surrey at a facility called Powertech Labs on 88th Avenue in that municipality. Also note, only one dealer in Vancouver handles the Hyundai FCEV. namely Jim Pattison Hyundai Surrey is the sole dealer leasing out the FCEV vehicles. As mentioned before, the Hyundai FCEV cannot be purchased at present and only leased. The Tucson’s are available on a 36-month lease which includes unlimited hydrogen, roadside assistance, and a valet service when the vehicle needs maintenance. Those who lease a Tucson FCEV receive a training session on how to fill the vehicle, and with a pin code can fill it on their own. The compressed hydrogen is available for free at Powertech Labs seven days a week.

Filling the hydrogen takes a few minutes lightly longer to fill up than a regular gasoline fill up, there is a special hose, a different receptacle and it’s a painless exercise.

Hyundai for very practical reasons are also rigorous in signing up leases, as the vehicle for all intents and purposes is an experimental vehicle and very state of the art. One of the main criteria is obviously the need to live in or very near to Surrey in order to be in range of the Powertech hydrogen filling station!

On the road, the Hyundai FCEV is eerily quiet with no mechanical noise or vibration on starting or idling. Acceleration is very quick as there is no power lag from the electric motor. The handling is smooth and well composed. The 134-hp AC motor translates into 221 pound-feet of torque and the single-speed transmission produces no noise whatsoever. In fact the silent ride, smoothness and sheer lack of engine and transmission noise in the Tucson FCEV means it is amazing how much harsher and noisier driving a conventional gasoline powered vehicle is!

Although the long awaited “Hydrogen highway” is not a reality yet; Hyundai has been quick off the mark in preparing for the next wave of fuel technology with the 2015 Tucson FCEV. It is a very impressive and practical vehicle. For an application to apply to lease the Tucson FCEV; visit hyundaihydrogen.ca.