Hyundai Follows Tesla’s Lead by Offering Free “Fuel” – Hydrogen Versus Electric


Hyundai FCEV

Hyundai FCEV

Hyundai made it publicly known that it’s following down the path blazed by Tesla Motors.

According to the AFDC, Only 10 Hydrogen Stations Exist in the US - We Know That This Figure is a Couple Years Outdated, So Perhaps There are a Dozen Now

According to the AFDC, Only 10 Hydrogen Stations Exist in the US – We Know That This Government Figure is a Couple Years Outdated, So Perhaps There are a Dozen Now

In an effort to push fuel cell vehicles, Hyundai says that its 2015 Tuscon FCEV will come with free fuel for the life of the lease. Hyundai isn’t willing to outright sell these costly FCEV machines, so leasing is the only option.  At $499 per month for 36 months ($2,999 due at signing) the Tuscon FCEV ain’t cheap, but neither is the other vehicle that comes with free “fuel” for life: the Tesla Model S with Supercharge capability.

This would seem to be a wise move by Hyundai, but we see some glaring issues.  First, there seems to be roughly a dozen hydrogen fueling stations in the US, most of which are in California.  Second, that fueling infrastructure doesn’t appear to be in the process of expansion, as is seen in the fact that the number of hydrogen fueling stations has been stagnant in recent years in the US.  Hyundai says it’ll offer the Tuscon outside of California as the hydrogen infrastructure spreads throughout the US, but we just don’t see that happening.

Tesla's Current Supercharger Map

Tesla’s Current Supercharger Map

Who is paying to build out the hydrogen fueling infrastructure?  Hyundai doesn’t say it’s willing to, neither has any other major automaker.

Okay, so the free “fuel” offer basically applies to those who reside in very select areas of California and who reside within perhaps 100 miles or so of the nearest fueling station.

On the flip side we’ve got Tesla Motors.  Tesla offers free juice to all Supercharge capable Model S owners across the nation.  By our count, the number of physical Supercharge stations in the US is now approximately 40 and each site has 4 to 10 chargers (8 charging points seem to be the average).

Soon, These Stations Will Dot the Entire Nation.  The Same Cannot be Said For Hydrogen

Soon, These Stations Will Dot the Entire Nation. The Same Cannot be Said For Hydrogen

Furthermore, this Supercharge infrastructure is expanding quickly.  It seems that not a week passes us by without at least one more station opening.

Tesla is building the infrastructure and is paying out of its own pockets to do.  That’s the only way this sort of thing works.

Moral of the story: Saying and doing are entirely different.  Until an automaker steps in and actually does the necessary work to get a hydrogen infrastructure in place, these FCEV vehicle are useless to the mass public of the US.  Automakers can say what they wish, but the act of doing is what gets stuff done.  Tesla is doing.  These FCEV supports are still in the saying phase.

Category: Tesla


15 responses to "Hyundai Follows Tesla’s Lead by Offering Free “Fuel” – Hydrogen Versus Electric"
  1. Assaf says:

    Besides the logistics, as long as H2 fuel is produced almost exclusively in a CO2-emitting process (footprint estimates are equivalent to gasoline burning or even somewhat worse) – it is simply irresponsible to put anyone’s eggs in the FCEV basket:

    “Nearly all of the hydrogen used in the United States (95 percent) is produced through a process called steam methane reforming. This process breaks down methane (CH4), a hydrocarbon, into hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2). The methane in natural gas is reacted with water (in the form of high-temperature steam) to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen. These gases are reacted with water again, in a process called a water shift reaction, to produce more hydrogen and CO2.”

    And anyone supporting FCEVs over EVs because the latter are supposedly “coal cars”, is either an idiot or a liar. Coal produces about one-third of US electricity, mostly in regions with few EVs – and this proportion is dropping fast. And even in coal regions EV footprint is typically lower than the best of ICE cars, b/c they operate off of an existing infrastructure and charge mostly during off-peak hours.

    By contrast, for H2 vehicles you not only have to a brand new virgin-territory infrastructure system – but the fuel provided by the system is right now as bad as fossil in terms of its footprint. With H2 vehicles already more expensive to begin with, it is hard to envision an independent economic incentive for transitioning to cleaner H2 production methods.

    Sooner or later governments will wise up to this; Obama has been arguably ahead of the curve, leaving FCEV support on the back burner throughout his term.

    To sum it up: I can understand Toyota’s strategy on FCEVs: they use them as flacks to protect their ICE hybrids as they openly diss EVs, while actually taking part in the EV development process behind the scenes (as near-silent partners in Tesla). But why are Hyundai Honda following them in a lemming-like march?

    1. MrEnergyCzar says:

      Maybe Honda and Hyundai are in collusion with Toyota? Back room deal to not make EV’s?


      1. Assaf says:

        I’d follow the golden rule: “don’t ascribe to malice, things that can be explained via stupidity.”

  2. Spec9 says:

    This is nothing but a CARB play. An attempt to entice some buyers . . . no lessors . . . into leasing some FCVs that give them big CARB points.

  3. Free hydrogen fuel for the duration of the three year lease is a significant concession, considering that hydrogen fuel usually costs between $6-$8 per gallon equivalent.

    On the other hand, the limited fueling infrastructure means you will be much more range-limited than in an EV.

    California’s recently funded roll-out of hydrogen filling stations will occur over the next 10 years.

    1. Leptoquark says:

      “California’s recently funded roll-out of hydrogen filling stations will occur over the next 10 years.”

      By which time Tesla’s Supercharger network will be complete, and probably upgraded, at there will be orders of magnitude more Level 3 DC fast charging around (even Combo). Hydrogen can never “win” as long as hydrogen filling stations are over a million dollars each. The beauty of plug-in cars is that the infrastructure is cheap and fast to install.

      1. Assaf says:


        In addition, the CO2 footprint improvement with EVs is a reality, rather than wishful thinking based upon futurist H2-production technologies.

  4. Brandon says:

    No one pay this any attention

  5. kdawg says:

    With $3000 due at signing + 36mo * $500/mo = $21,000 total.
    For $22,000 you can buy the base model gas version Tucson. Even with free hydrogen, this seems like a rip off. Free fuel for 3 years may equal $4500 saved in gas, but after three years you would OWN the gas version and not have to turn in your leased car.

    1. Assaf says:

      I don’t think it’s a rip-off, these are just expensive cars – and unlike EVs their cost is not about to come down anytime soon.

      1. kdawg says:

        I didn’t mean Hyundai is making a huge profit on these, but that it just doesn’t make any financial sense to buy one over the gas version, even with the free fuel.

  6. MrEnergyCzar says:

    I’ll be surprised if this ever happens since making the hydrogen is a horrible net energy loser…


  7. io says:

    Funny how a discussion on a fuel-cell vehicle gets instantly derailed by comparing free hydrogen to free electricity, which IMHO are fundamentally different…

    Any plug-in comes with basically “free fuel for life”. Nissan dealerships for example were required to have at least an L2 before they can sell Leafs (now many have an L3 as well).

    The key question becomes, how much inconvenience are you ok putting up with to get that free electricity? In many cases, it’s just not worth it — and especially Tesla, as superchargers are typically not in urban centers, but rather between them.
    This arrangement of course makes sense: given the choice, for road trips, one would rather have a quick-charger on the way, not at start/destination.

    FCVs can’t be “recharged” at home (so far, and likely forever), and so depend on refueling stations. Most drivers will therefore want one to close to home/work or some place they frequently go to/by.

    1. kdawg says:

      I think I would only consider a fuel cell if it ran on CNG and as a range extender to my EV. And I would want a home compressor. There are a few CNG stations out there.. but not many. Of course price still is an issue.

  8. Robert says:

    2015?! Way to be late to the party. In 2015 it’ll all be over.