Many of the world's major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, have built and tested generations of experimental fuel-cell powered electric vehicles (FCEVs) – some of them in significant numbers.
General Motors of Canada, for example, built more than 100 Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles in Oshawa, Ontario in 2007, for real-world testing. To date they have accumulated almost 5-million km of collective use. And both Honda and Toyota promise FCEVs will be available to consumers in 2015.
But the first automaker to offer mass-produced FCEVs for retail sale in North America is none of the above. Rather, it's Hyundai.
This week, the first shipment of Hyundai's production Tucson Fuel Cell CUVs unloaded in the U.S. at a port near Los Angeles. The first retail sale of the Tucson Fuel Cell is expected within the next several weeks in Southern California.
Approved customers will be able to lease the Tucson Fuel Cell for $499/month on a 36-month term, with $2,999 down (all figures US dollars). Those prices include unlimited free hydrogen refueling and Hyundai's "At Your Service" valet maintenance.
The range and refueling time of the Tucson Fuel Cell vehicles are said to compare favourably with gasoline vehicles.
Initially, the FCEVs will be available from three select southern California Hyundai dealers. According to the company, availability of the Tucson Fuel Cell will expand to other regions consistent with the accelerating deployment of hydrogen refueling stations.