This week Hyundai announced that it plans to produce a hydrogen-fueled SUV in 2014—the first mass-market vehicle to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The 2014 Hyundai Tucson was unveiled Wednesday at the Los Angeles auto show, which also featured a fuel-cell concept car from Honda. Toyota also unveiled its concept fuel-cell vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show. Both Honda and Toyota expect to bring their fuel-cell vehicles to market in 2015.
Hydrogen fuel-cell cars face a challenge familiar to advanced vehicles fueled by electricity and natural gas: fueling infrastructure is limited. California has just nine hydrogen fueling stations.
Despite that, “these things are now ready for prime time,” said John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai North America. The hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will help to satisfy the conditions of the new eight-state advanced vehicle coalition, which has committed to put 3.3 million new zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.
Electric vehicles, which are also included in the zero-emission category, have seen several developments this week as well. BMW has joined other auto manufacturers in the EV scene with its new BMW i3. In early 2014, BMW’s 360º Electric will be available for purchase in the United States. Following in Tesla’s footsteps, BMW has partnered with SolarCity to offer discounted home solar systems to BMW i3 and i8 owners. No word if SolarCity’s supercharging stations will be available to BMW drivers for free.
Speaking of Tesla, Elon Musk has one more feather from Consumer Reports to stick in his cap: according to the 2013 Consumer Reports Customer Satisfaction Survey, the Tesla Model S was the top-rated model overall for automobile owner satisfaction, scoring a 99 out of a 100. In May, Tesla scored 99 out of 100 on a Consumer Reports road test.
This is good news for a company that had a bad autumn. Last month we saw some dramatic photos of a Tesla Model S in flames. Although the evidence points to an external force (metal objects under the car) as the source of the blaze, Tesla’s stock took a beating, and there were allegations of unsafe battery packs. As USA Today points out, the owners “were not at all fazed and in fact wanted new Teslas to replace their burnt-up ones.” Even the cars that caught fire inspired customer satisfaction. And, USA Today also points out:
The nationwide driving statistics make this very clear: there are 150,000 car fires per year according to the National Fire Protection Association, and Americans drive about 3 trillion miles per year according to the Department of Transportation. That equates to one vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to one fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla. This means you are five times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla!
Despite the excitement behind advanced vehicles this year, they still represent a small segment of the overall automobile market. That said, the rate of growth for electric vehicles is outpacing expectations. 2013 was a particularly strong year for electric vehicles: 59,000 electric vehicles had been sold in the United States by the end of August, which is more than the total number sold in 2012. The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf both broke sales records in August.
Following up on our previous stories about advanced energy-powered data centers, Duke Energy has asked North Carolina regulators to approve a test program that would allow large energy users to choose advanced energy sources to fulfill some of their energy demands. The test program would be designed specifically for data centers and other high-volume energy users like college campuses and manufacturers.
“It’s a first-of-its-kind for Duke Energy to have a renewable-energy program that’s designed to fit the needs of its customers,” Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said. “We believe it’s a ground-breaking program.”