2016 Wards 10 Best Engines Test Drive: Hyundai Tucson FCV

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It may not look like it, but the Hyundai Tucson FCV is the most advanced vehicle we’ve ever driven in 22 years of Wards 10 Best Engines testing.

When it debuted last year, it was the first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle to be sold to consumers.

Aside from a slightly raised load floor in the rear cargo area that sits above the main hydrogen tank, there are few hints the CUV is powered by an incredibly sophisticated powertrain.

The fuel cell works by taking hydrogen stored at 10,000 psi in two tanks in the rear and turning the hydrogen into electricity that powers an electric drivetrain.

It’s wonderfully quiet, even for an electric car. And, like most EVs, it’s great off the line. But with only 134 hp, we find it weak in the critical 40-70 mph range and that can make driving maneuvers such as jockeying for position on the expressway difficult.

What you get with this car is an electric vehicle with a range of 265 miles that can be refueled almost as quickly as a conventional fossil-fuel engine. That’s something no battery-powered vehicle can match.

The big drawback is you need a hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

Hundreds of refueling stations are on the way in the next few years, especially with Toyota, Honda and others bringing fuel-cell vehicles to market.

But state and local governments are behind schedule in opening new hydrogen stations. That is making it harder for this promising technology to gain traction and it has us concerned that it may take a very long time for fuel-cells to become legitimate players in the marketplace.

Drew Winter

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