Hyundai Motor Co.'s fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) program recently unveiled its second-generation fuel cell vehicle, the Tucson FCEV, at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show. The Tucson FCEV is Hyundai's first hydrogen-powered vehicle taking part in fleet operations to begin in the first quarter of 2005.

Hyundai's second-generation fuel cell vehicle is dramatically improved in almost every way. The Tucson FCEV has a driving range double that of Hyundai's first-generation vehicle, the Santa Fe FCEV. Maximum speed and power have both increased to improve the overall performance. In a major technology breakthrough, the Tucson FCEV is one of the first fuel cell vehicles capable of starting in freezing temperatures. Testing has proven that the vehicle is capable of starting after being subjected to -20 degrees Celsius temperatures for five days. Other technical advancements include a higher output fuel cell and a new lithium ion polymer battery.

"These advances in our fuel cell electric vehicles are exciting steps forward for our program," said Kim Sang-Kwon, president of research and development for Hyundai-Kia Motors. "The Tucson FCEV is proof that Hyundai has significantly improved efficiency and quality control in the manufacturing process."

With this working model, Hyundai will be taking its fuel cell technology "to the fleets" and will begin fleet testing in just three months. Fleets will eventually operate out of AC Transit of Oakland, Calif., Hyundai America Technical Center and Southern California Edison.

The fleet testing phase of Hyundai's fuel cell research and development program is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). A team consisting of ChevronTexaco Corp., Hyundai Motor Co. and UTC Fuel Cells was awarded federal funds to lead a five-year demonstration and validation project designed to showcase practical applications of hydrogen energy technology. The primary goal of this multi-year project is to develop and demonstrate safe, convenient and reliable hydrogen-based distributed power generation, fuel cell vehicles and vehicle fueling infrastructure, and to educate key audiences about the use of hydrogen as a potential fuel for transportation and power generation.

"Entering this new phase of our program will allow us to build fuel cell electric vehicles at higher volumes for fleet testing applications," said President Kim. "It also brings us one step closer to the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles."