Hyundai Motor has unveiled its second-generation fuel cell vehicle, the Tucson FCEV, at the Los Angeles motor show.

The vehicle is Hyundai's first hydrogen-powered vehicle taking part in fleet operations to begin in the first quarter of 2005.

This second-generation fuel cell vehicle is said to be dramatically improved in almost every detail. It has a driving range double that of the automaker's first-generation vehicle. Maximum speed and power have both increased to improve the overall performance.

In a so-called "major technology breakthrough", the Tucson FCEV is claimed to be one of the first fuel cell vehicles capable of starting in freezing temperatures. Testing has proven that the vehicle is capable of starting after being subjected to -20 degrees Celsius temperatures for five days. Other technical advancements include a higher output fuel cell and a new lithium ion polymer battery.

With this working model, Hyundai will be taking its fuel cell technology "to the fleets" and will begin testing in three months.  Fleets will eventually operate out of AC Transit of Oakland, California, Hyundai America Technical Centre and Southern California Edison.

The fleet testing phase is supported by a grant from the US Department of Energy. A team consisting of ChevronTexaco, Hyundai Motor and UTC Fuel Cells was awarded federal funds to lead a five-year demonstration and validation project designed to showcase practical applications of hydrogen energy technology.

"Entering this new phase of our program will allow us to build fuel cell electric vehicles at higher volumes for fleet testing applications," said a Hyundai spokesman. "It also brings us one step closer to the commercialisation of fuel cell vehicles."

Built with lightweight, performance-boosting aluminium body components, the Tucson FCEV has a power-to-weight ratio similar to that of a conventional SUV. It also features low noise levels.

The power plant has been relocated under the front hood, unlike its predecessor, which featured an under-floor installation.
The driving range has also been extended to 300km (186 miles) thanks to its 152-litre (40 US gallon) hydrogen storage tanks.

Marginally lighter than its predecessor, the Tucson FCEV also develops 5kW more power for peak output of 80kW. Its maximum speed is 150km/h (93 mph) compared to the Santa Fe's 124km/h (77 mph).

UTC Fuel Cells of South Windsor, Connecticut, will again supply the hydrogen-powered fuel cell while Enova Systems, of Torrance, California, provides the hybrid-electric drive train, motor and control unit. The 152-V high voltage battery was co-developed by Hyundai and LG Chem in Seoul.