Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles haven't grabbed headlines like battery electric vehicles recently, but car manufacturers are still working to make them a viable production option. Having teased us with the FE Fuel Cell Concept in Geneva, Hyundai has given the world a fleeting glimpse of the hydrogen-fueled SUV it plans to launch next year.
At the core of the new FE SUV will be an overhauled iteration of the Hyundai fuel cell. The company has been selling a production hydrogen vehicle since 2013 – albeit in limited numbers – and says the new car will take advantage of the lessons learned in that vehicle. That means better range, efficiency and performance, all of which are obviously good things.
When it arrives in production form, the car will have 20 percent more power than its ix35 (aka Tucson) Fuel Cell predecessor, with 120 kW (161 hp) on tap. Those living in extreme climates will be pleased to know it will start in temperatures as cold as –30° C (–22° F) thanks to its fresh fuel cell, with two left-hand-drive FE prototypes having recently undergone cold-weather testing in Australia's Snow Mountains as part of a global testing and durability program. Hyundai also says the new fuel cell construction reduces production costs.
Hydrogen will be stored in three equal-sized tanks, rather than the two odd-sized ones in the current ix35 Fuel Cell. The tanks make use of a new plastic liner to squeeze more fuel in than before, one factor that contributes to the claimed 580-km (360-mi) range. The fuel cell itself is claimed to operate at 60 percent efficiency, which is a nine percent improvement over the current car.
As for the way the car looks, the split headlight design mirrors that of the recently-released Kona, while the smooth surfacing on the flanks was apparently chosen to reflect the "technical maturity and cutting-edge technology" hiding within – whatever that means. Flush door handles, an air curtain behind the front grille and an aerodynamic tunnel running through the D-pillar have all been fitted to help the SUV slice through the air with greater efficiency.
Inside, screens have been used to reduce clutter on the dashboard, while the seats are trimmed in a combination of woven fabric and suede, which certainly look comfortable in the sole interior image provided.
Pricing is yet to be announced, but Hyundai says the production SUV will launched next year in South Korea, with North America and Europe to follow shortly thereafter. The company will also look at the potential for a release in other markets, such as China.