Hyundai Tucson FCEV Owner Shocked by $113K Repair Bill for Hydrogen Fuel Cell
Being an early adopter comes with unfortunate risks.
Hybrids and EVs may be kinder to the environment, but they have a bad reputation for stinging owners with shocking repair costs when things go wrong. In much the same vein, the owner of a hydrogen-powered Hyundai was recently astounded with a six-figure bill when the fuel cell went kaput.
As reported by AutoBild, German IT consultant Till Westberg purchased a Hyundai ix35 seven years ago for the reasonable sum of €50,200—roughly $55,000 nowadays. Known as the Hyundai Tuscon in the U.S., the ix35 was offered with hydrogen power in limited numbers, with the gas used to generate electricity for the drivetrain via a fuel cell. Westberg drove the car for years without fault, racking up over 52,000 miles before disaster struck.
Sadly, Westberg's ix35 simply stopped working one day. The SUV began throwing an error message on the screen when powered up, and would no longer drive. Unfortunately for the German resident, repair seems out of the question. Upon approaching Hyundai for a fix, Westberg was presented with a monstrous €103,764.17 ($113,000) repair bill for the fuel cell system. Tragically, the vehicle, purchased on the cusp of 2016, is now well past its standard five-year warranty period.
Prior to the failure, Westberg had been enjoying the boons of his hydrogen-powered vehicle. He regularly achieved over 450 km (280 miles) to a tank and appreciated the quiet running and good acceleration of the electric powertrain. Regardless, switching to hydrogen took serious commitment. At times, Westberg reportedly found himself driving over 70 miles to reach a hydrogen filling station.
In a statement made to AutoBild, Hyundai admitted that repairing the vehicle no longer made economic sense. Only around 1,000 examples of the fuel-cell ix35 were built from 2013 to 2018. The small population makes supporting the vehicles prohibitively expensive, particularly when it comes to unique parts like the fuel cell system. The pace of change also plays a role; fuel cell technology has moved on significantly since the hydrogen ix35 was released a decade ago. Hyundai likely isn't building a whole lot of fuel cells for an obscure decade-old platform.
Westberg has hoped that Hyundai will take the car back. Meanwhile, according to the German outlet, Hyundai is pursuing whether it can accommodate him with an alternative solution.
Hyundai also notes that the successor, the Nexo fuel cell vehicle, is in mass production. Replacement fuel cells for that vehicle are available for a more reasonable price of 41,650 ($45,000). That's still a ridiculously high figure, but Hyundai claims the fuel cells are designed for a ten-year life or 5,000 hours of operation. They also come with a ten-year, 100,000-mile warranty in some markets. Total sales exceeded 10,000 units by 2020.
Anxieties around powertrain failures remain a factor for new buyers of hybrids, EVs, and the like. Fuel cell vehicles also fit into this category, they're just much rarer. After all, nobody wants to get a huge five- or six-figure bill less than a decade into owning a new car. As the clean transport revolution rolls on, we should expect automakers to solve this problem. At the same time, expect to see a handful of horror stories like these for early adopters caught out by edge cases like these.
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