Hyundai Ditches Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology For Now, Pivots to Electric Vehicles

The Korean automaker finally puts its focus on batteries, rather than hydrogen, to power the car of tomorrow.

byRob Stumpf|
Hyundai News photo

Hyundai has often proclaimed that hydrogen will power future generations of cars, even as other manufacturers believe that it is too early to make such claims, especially since the rise of electric cars has come to pass. Despite recently announcing a new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, BBC reports that Hyundai has decided that it needs to pivot in order to remain competitive in the electric market during the coming years.

The Korean manufacturer is no stranger to electric cars, though its current long-range offering, the Ioniq, only delivers around 124 miles of range. This sandwiches its EPA-rated range between the BMW i3's 114 miles and the Volkswagen e-Golf's 125 miles. Though it may be ideal for the urban commuter, this is hardly long range when compared to equivalent gasoline-powered vehicles. If Hyundai wants to remain in competition with the next generation of EVs, they will need to work on matching the range of the Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt.

Hyundai can't be happy that their plans for a hydrogen-powered future seem to be falling short. The company put forth plenty of effort marketing their hydrogen fuel-cell Tuscon, including elaborating on the shorter fill-up time compared to an EV, as well as the potential for longer range. Its downfall, however, isn't necessarily due to the price or uncommon nature of the fuel cell, but rather the availability of hydrogen fill-up stations. In fact, the United States Department of Energy only charts 38 hydrogen fill-up stations in the entire country, primarily localized in California.

While hardly as common as gas stations, electric cars can take advantage of a more-established electric grid across the country—something that hydrogen simply doesn't have going for it. Earlier this year, Hyundai (alongside Honda and Toyota) attempted to sway the California Air Resources Board (CARB) into having Volkswagen use a portion of its dieselgate settlement funds to pay for more hydrogen fueling stations around California. It didn't exactly work out the way they planned, which is likely a driving force behind why competitor Toyota announced that it was researching graphene-based solid-state charging for some of its next vehicles.

Though hydrogen may have its place in the future, for now Hyundai will place it on the back burner, letting the heat simmer while its newest electric projects begin to unfold. If the company isn't quick enough to roll out to market, more electrically established companies like Tesla and Volkswagen may eclipse its entry position.