| LOS ANGELES, June 10
LOS ANGELES, June 10 A Southern California
motorist drove off the lot of a Hyundai Motor Co
dealership on Tuesday in a zero-emissions car touted by the
automaker as marking the commercial debut of mass-produced
hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in the United States.
State energy and air-quality officials hailed the occasion
in Tustin, California, about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Los
Angeles, as a milestone in efforts to curb tailpipe pollution
that accounts for about a third of California's greenhouse gas
Independent industry analysts were less breathless about the
announcement, noting that other automakers, including Honda
Motor Co Ltd and Mercedes-Benz, have already
put fuel cell vehicles on the road, albeit in very limited
They said the relatively high cost of building the cars and
extremely low number of hydrogen refueling stations would
constrain the market for such vehicles for years to come. But
they credited South Korean-based Hyundai with making a
high-profile commitment to a promising technology.
"That's a big deal," said industry analyst Maryann Keller,
of Maryann Keller & Associates of Greenwich, Connecticut.
In a ceremony at Tustin Hyundai, dealer principal John
Patterson handed the keys for the new Tucson fuel cell-powered
crossover vehicle to its first U.S. customer, Timothy Bush, who
is leasing the car for $499 a month plus a $2,999 down payment.
As an added incentive for early adopters, the three-year,
36,000-mile lease term also come with unlimited free hydrogen
refueling and free maintenance service at any of one of three
participating dealerships in Southern California. The cars are
not yet available for sale, company officials said.
The Tucson fuel cell, which comes only in white, is
virtually identical to the gasoline version of the CUV, a
four-door automobile with a rear hatch, and is manufactured on
the same assembly line at Hyundai's Tucson plant in Ulsan, South
With a driving range of 265 miles for each fill-up and
minimal cold-weather effects, the vehicle compares favorably to
plug-in battery electric cars. Refueling takes about 10 minutes.
Showing off the car to reporters, Bush said the Tucson's
range and size offer versatility similar to his current sport
utility vehicle. "I'm really excited to be able to pack up the
kids and the dog and surfboards in the back and go to the beach
or head up the local mountains, which we can totally do in this
car," he said.
The fuel cell produces power from hydrogen gas through a
electrochemical process that involves no combustion or moving
parts. Its only tailpipe emission is water vapor.
Hyundai has declined to say how many fuel cell vehicles it
plans to make this year, or how many have been ordered.
Potential customers must live within range of nine existing
refueling stations in Southern California, most of them along
the Interstate 405 corridor through Los Angeles and Orange
California aims to have 1.5 million zero-emissions
vehicles, which include fuel cell cars, on its roads by 2025.
(Editing by Joseph Radford)