Hyundai to pay for fuel, maintenance costs of new hydrogen-powered crossover

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Hyundai Motor America said today it will pay for all fuel and maintenance costs for owners of its new hydrogen fuel-cell powered Tucson crossover, which will debut next spring.

Hyundai will lease the fuel-cell Tucson for $499 a month for 36 months plus a $3,000 down payment to customers in Los Angeles or Orange County, Calif. The Tucson will be the first mass-market fuel-cell vehicle offered in the U.S.

The American branch of the South Korean automaker was to announce Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show that it will expand the fuel-cell offerings to other areas as hydrogen fuel-cell stations become more prominent.

There are currently just 10 public stations in the U.S. all but one in California according to the U.S. Department of Energys Alternative Fuel Data Center. A dozen more are under development in California, which recently passed legislation that will provide $20 million annually over several years for the development of 100 hydrogen refueling stations.

Hyundai Motor America president and CEO John Krafcik says Hyundai could lease or sell about 1,000 fuel-cell vehicles by the end of 2016.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. also are unveiling plans in Los Angeles for consumer-ready hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

In fuel-cell vehicles, the fuel cell stack converts hydrogen gas with oxygen into electricity to power an electric motor. Fuel-cell vehicles emit only heat and water, but production costs, storage systems, public acceptance and durability remain major hurdles for automakers.

The South Korean-built fuel-cell Tucson at 134 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque will have a fuel range of between 250 and 300 miles. Fuel economy figures are not yet available.

Those interested can visit www.hyundai.com.

Like many alternative-fuel vehicles, the fuel-cell Tucson wont turn a profit for Hyundai, which declined to discuss the financial implications of selling the vehicle.

But many automakers have teamed up including Honda and General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Daimler AG to develop hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, which are seen as one alternative to help them meet the 54.5 miles per gallon fleet average fuel efficiency standard by 2025.

Hyundai is trying to be a frontrunner, and Krafcik points to a statement last year from then-U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu that showed increased support of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

I was not that high on hydrogen fuel cells but several things changed my mind, Chu said last year. The most important is that we have now natural gas in abundance.

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