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Surprising Science

Coming Soon: An SUV That Runs Exclusively On Hydrogen

Hyundai's ix35 Fuel Cell, unveiled this week, is expected to hit the consumer market in 2015 as the world's first mass-produced hydrogen-powered vehicle.

What’s the Latest Development?

This week Hyundai announced that it had begun mass production of its ix35 Fuel Cell, an SUV that uses hydrogen fuel cells exclusively and emits only water vapor. The ix35 was modeled after the company’s Tucson SUV, and comes with similar options such as heated seats. It also comes with a fairly high price tag — over $100,000 — but that price is expected to drop over time as fuel cell systems become more affordable. Hyundai isn’t offering the car to consumers right now, but plans to do so in 2015.

What’s the Big Idea?

Hydrogen fuel systems, which produce electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen, have been around for a while. Most notably, NASA used them for the space shuttles and the modules used in the Apollo missions. Because there aren’t many refueling stations, hydrogen-powered cars may be best suited for government fleets that are required to return to the same location each night. In this, the European Union is expected to take the lead: It has already begun building a network of stations, and the city of Copenhagen has ordered 15 ix35 vehicles. 

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