Electric Vs Hydrogen: Who's Ahead?

Feb 18, 2015 06:30 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

Automakers have long been debating electric versus hydrogen when it comes to alternative fuel, and for the moment at least, hydrogen fuel cells seem to be ahead.

The potentially game-changing Hyundai Tucson can be refueled in less than 10 minutes, according to the automaker, and "makes the transition from gasoline to hydrogen as seamless as possible," said a report from Automotive News.

"The hydrogen fuel cell debate is no longer a chicken-and-egg conundrum. The fuel cell vehicle has arrived first. It works," wrote Richard Truett after driving the Hyundai Tucson.

The compact sport-utility vehicle, which uses fuel cell technology to convert hydrogen into electricity, has received an approving nod from Consumer Reports as well.  

"It drives much like a normal Tucson, but without an engine it's actually much quieter. Hyundai claims it will go 265 miles before you have to refuel it. That's pretty amazing for an electric vehicle," said Jake Fisher, auto test director for Consumer Reports.

That kind of driving range trumps just about anything offered for a pure electric car. Tesla's Model S famously leads the electric-vehicle market with a 265-mile battery range, but the sedan is only available for those who can afford to pay upward of $70,000.

Plus a Tesla takes about 20 minutes for the battery to charge halfway, while a fuel-cell vehicle can typically be refilled for full driving range in about 10 minutes.

The Hyundai Tucson is currently available only through a lease deal where buyers sign a 36-month lease for $499 per month and pay $2,999 at the lease signing.

Toyota is launching the hydrogen-powered Mirai in the next few months for about $57,000 before incentives, while Honda has its own FCV planned for early 2016.

As for which type of alternative fuel can be truly declared the winner, Green Car Reports has a suggestion: make two identical vehicles that are powered by electric battery and hydrogen fuel cell, respectively, and set them loose on the market. Car enthusiasts can dream.

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