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Hyundai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Tucson: Is U.S. Ready for It?

Hyundai boldly goes where no car company has gone before today with the introduction of the Hyundai Tucson Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It will be the first mass-marketed vehicle of its kind in the United States but are American consumers ready for it?

In my opinion, it's going to be the biggest challenge Hyundai has faced in this market as it strives to educate American buyers about the reliability and range of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. If Hyundai does it right – and it largely has a reputation for doing things right – it could become a pioneer in the field.

The press conference for the reveal takes place today, Nov. 20, at 4:05 PM (PST). Torque News will have the details posted as soon as possible afterwards.

As the Mongtomery (Ala.) Advertiser reported, President George W. Bush allocated $1.2 billion for hydrogen research and said in his 2003 State of the Union address: “The first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen and pollution-free.

"Hyundai now is making Bush’s forecast come true, beating other auto companies to the mass market with Tucsons that have electric motors powered by a stack of hydrogen fuel cells. Hyundai plans to start selling the vehicles in Southern California and eventually spread to other areas as filling stations are built," the newspaper reported.

Southern California is a natural market for the Hyundai Tucson hydrogen fuel cell vehicle because there's already an infrastructure in place for fueling. The problem is once you leave Southern California, there are only two other public fuel cell refueling stations in the United States in Northern California and South Carolina, according to the U.S Dept. of Energy.

The infrastructure for public fuel cell vehicles is bound to grow if government money pours in and private stations get funds to expand for service to the public. Driving that growth will be more car companies bringing fuel cell vehicles to market in the coming years.

The Montgomery newspaper says, "Also at the Los Angeles show, Honda Motor Co. is scheduled to show off a fuel-cell concept vehicle, which it says hints at the aerodynamic design of the next generation fuel-cell vehicle to be launched in 2015. Toyota Motor Corp. is scheduled to unveil its own concept fuel-cell vehicle at this week’s Tokyo Motor Show. That one also is likely for distribution in the mass market in 2015."

Noticeable in their absence, so far, are American manufacturers like Ford, GM and Chrysler. GM dabbled in the fuel cell vehicle field back in 2005 with Chevy Equinoxes. Domestic manufacturers are largely focused on electric vehicles, which themselves are being added by expansion of the recharging grid.