Hyundai plans long-range premium electric car in strategic shift

Hyundai Motor's new fuel cell SUV is seen during a media event in Seoul
Hyundai Motor's new fuel cell SUV is seen during a media event in Seoul, South Korea August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

August 17, 2017

By Hyunjoo Jin

SEOUL (Reuters) – Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> said on Thursday it was placing electric vehicles at the center of its product strategy – one that includes plans for a premium long-distance electric car as it seeks to catch up to Tesla <TSLA.O> and other rivals.

Like Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T>, Hyundai had initially championed fuel cell technology as the future of eco-friendly vehicles but has found itself shifting electric as Tesla shot to prominence and battery-powered cars have gained government backing in China.

Toyota is now also working on longer distance, fast-charging electric vehicles, local media have reported.

The South Korean automaker is planning to launch an electric sedan under its high-end Genesis brand in 2021 with a range of 500 km (310 miles) per charge. It will also introduce an electric version of its Kona small sport utility vehicle (SUV) with a range of 390 km in the first half of next year.

“We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles,” Executive Vice President Lee Kwang-guk told a news conference, calling the technology mainstream and realistic.

The automaker and affiliate Kia Motors Corp <000270.KS>, which together rank fifth in global vehicle sales, also said they were adding three plug-in vehicles to their plans for eco-friendly cars, bringing the total to 31 models by 2020.

Underscoring Hyundai’s electric shift, those plans include eight battery-powered and two fuel-cell vehicles – a contrast to its 2014 announcement for 22 models, of which only two were slated to be battery-powered.

Hyundai also confirmed a Reuters report that it is developing its first dedicated electric vehicle platform, which will allow the company to produce multiple models with longer driving ranges.

Last year, it launched its first mass-market pure electric car IONIQ, but the vehicle’s per-charge driving range is much shorter than offerings from Tesla and General Motors <GM.N>.

HYDROGEN SUV

Hyundai unveiled a near production version of its new fuel cell SUV with a driving range of more than 580 km per charge, compared with the 415 km for its current Tucson fuel cell SUV.

The mid-sized SUV will be launched in Korea early next year, followed by U.S. and European markets.

A fuel cell electric bus is slated to be unveiled late this year, while a sedan-type fuel cell car is also planned. Even so, analysts noted that gaining traction with fuel cells was going to be a long hard slog partly due to a lack of charging infrastructure.

“Hyundai will achieve economies of scale for fuel cell cars by 2035 at the earliest,” said Lee Hang-koo, a senior research fellow at Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade.

    “Before that, Hyundai has no choice but to rely on battery cars,” he said.

Hyundai launched the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle in 2013, dubbed the Tucson Fuel Cell, but sales trailed Toyota’s rival offering, Mirai.

Hyundai has sold about 862 of Tucson Fuel Cell vehicles since its 2013 launch, while Toyota sold some 3,700 Mirai Fuel Cell vehicles since its 2014 launch.

In Korea, there are 10 fuel cell charging stations, only one tenth of 100 in Japan, Hyundai said.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting by Maki Shiraki in TOKYO; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

  • KSC

    Very well made cars. Hopefully racist like Billybut will pull his head from his A$$ and think a little.

  • TexanForever

    If I’m not mistaken this article is somewhat misleading. Hundai has shifted emphasis from electric to hydrogen fuel cells because of the longer range when compared with pure electric. Plug-in Tesla and Chevy Bolt will be left sucking rocks.
    .

  • Billy Bones

    Korean garbage.

    • DeplorableTollthis

      Actually Hyundai makes very well built cars and has one of the best warranties in the business. Before you go on a racist rant, My Father was a Veteran of the Korean War and I am a Vietnam Veteran.

      • KSC

        I have driven a Hyundai Elantra for over 7 years and haven’t had a seconds trouble from it. Best 12 grand ever spent.

        • DeplorableTollthis

          I have 2013 Santa Fe, same here.

  • Thomas J.Stratford

    Brilliant!! Well maybe not, as gas is $2 a gallon! Of course one can already purchase the Chevy Bolt Electric car, at $30 k with all federal grants included. The savings on gasoline will be realized provided you drive the car for 20 years, due to it’s cost being about $12k more than a similar gasoline powered vehicle. Oh wait! The battery system only has an effective 10 year life, and the replacement battery for the now discontinued Chevy Spark EV, is $19k, for a car that costs $26k!

  • Hola ConosLiberales

    It would be a good time to short your stock in Elon.

    • Thomas J.Stratford

      Elon?? Is he hiding out in S. America yet?

  • sweptarea

    Fuel cell driven automobiles will displace hybrids and plug-ins as time goes by. The pure electric car, barring a monumental battery break-through, will never have the range to compete with gasoline or the fuel cell. You can count on gasoline (and diesel) preponderance for at least 20 more years.

    • Billy Bones

      Exactly. Even the batteries in a nuke sub are not efficient. Restart the space program would help.