Like it or not, fuel cell vehicles are under development by most of the world’s major automakers. Hyundai already has a fuel cell version of its Tucson SUV on the road, but it is really just a rehash of the gasoline powered Tucson that has been available to customers for several years. Now Hyundai has brought a prototype of an all new SUV to Geneva, one that has been designed from the wheels up to be powered by a fuel cell powertrain. The concept — dubbed the FE Fuel Cell — is handsome in a way that most SUV shoppers will appreciate. FE stands for Futuro Eco, according to Hyundai.
Whether cars of the future are powered by electricity or hydrogen, they won’t need a big grille to protect the radiator for an internal combustion engine. The Tesla Model S and Model X both dispense with a traditional grille as does the Hyundai FE Fuel Cell concept. That represents a huge change for car companies, who have labored for a century to turn the grille into a hallmark of their brand. Mitsubishi has wasted five long years toying with the shape of the grille for its Outlander PHEV, trying to get it right for American customers instead of just getting the car here and selling it.
The FE Fuel Cell features a new fuel cell design that is smaller and lighter than the original, says Hyundai. It also has 30% greater energy density. Since one of the byproducts of a fuel cell is water vapor, Hyundai is capturing some of that output and using it to humidify the interior of the car.
The biggest advantage of Hyundai’s new fuel cell technology is greater range. “We have designed the car to run the longest distance ever achieved by a fuel cell vehicle,” says Hyundai Vice Chairman Dr. Woong-Chul Yang. The new car reportedly will have a range of 500 miles, which is great news unless the next hydrogen fueling station is 501 miles away. Production is expected to begin in 2018, by which time the United States should have dozens of hydrogen fueling stations.