Hyundai’s hydrogen car sure to keep Surrey station busy

SURREY — In the coming months, BC Hydro subsidiary Powertech Labs in Surrey may become a whole lot busier following a recent announcement by Hyundai.

The Korean auto manufacturer is going to be the first in Canada to offer a zeroemission hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to consumers, with the initial units arriving in Vancouver in early 2015.

Currently, the primary designated fuelling station in the Lower Mainland is located at Powertech, which itself was the first in the country to offer such a service back in 2010 when the city was experimenting with hydrogen fleet vehicles.

"This is not an announcement about another pilot program or some government fleet test," said Don Romano, president and CEO of Hyundai Canada during a press conference.

"We’re going to grow a new segment in the industry by taking this first step because we’re confident in the fuel cell technology."

Called the Tucson FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle), it is based off the company’s existing compact crossover platform with the exception of the drivetrain.

In fact, besides some extra badging, the re-engineered Tucson looks remarkably like its gasoline-powered sibling. This is in stark contrast to Toyota’s take on the subject with their Mirai, a futuristic-looking hydrogen sedan set to go on sale in Japan next month.

Romano said utilizing a familiar platform allows for leveraging economies of scale if and when demand grows, something he sees happening. The crossover runs quietly off a fuel cell stack that converts hydrogen gas into useable energy for the electric motor, producing 134 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque.

Filling up the tank is a similar process to conventional cars and takes less than five minutes – in comparison to 30 minutes, the quickest recharge time for plug-in electric vehicles – and can drive for a distance of 426 kilometres.

Eric Denhoff, president and CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association, got behind the podium to dispel some prevailing myths about the new power source.

"We’ve demonstrated that the vehicles could work here. People said ‘Hydrogen fuel cell technology won’t work, it’s not practical.’ They were wrong. They said, ‘Well, you can run demonstration fuel cells in Vancouver where it’s nice and warm, but it won’t work in the cold, it won’t work in the desert.’ They were wrong. They said ‘You’ll never have commercially available fuel cell vehicles in Canada or North America,’ and today we’re here to say: they’re wrong."

The Tucson FCEV will be available on a three-year lease at $599 a month, and that includes all scheduled maintenance over that period, roadside assistance as well as all fuel costs. Visit Hyundaihydrogen.ca to sign up and find out more.

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