Hyundai BuleOn

The big and official news from Hyundai at the Washington Auto Show this week was that a bunch of people went to the website for the Tucson Fuel Cell CUV. But as Michael O'Brien, the vice president of corporate and product planning for Hyundai Motor America, was announcing that bit of news, an off-hand mention of something more battery-powered caught our ear.

Hyundai calls the hydrogen Tucson the "next-generation EV," but in the US, that H2 vehicle will actually beat an EV to the company's showrooms. There have been hints about a Hyundai EV in the US before – and the Korean company has shown off the BlueOn EV (pictured), based on the i10 – but O'Brien was willing to give a little bit more information on the still-nebulous EV plans.

"It will be a new product, that's all we can say right now"

The i10 electric vehicles have been in service since they were used at the G20 summit in Seoul, Korea in 2010 O'Brien said, but the EV that's coming to the US will be completely different. It will be a compact-class EV wearing the Hyundai badge (so, not the Soul EV from sister brand Kia) that could, based on demand, be sold in more locations than the Tucson Fuel Cell, which is going to be limited to places like California where there are hydrogen fueling stations. "It will be a new product, that's all we can say right now," O'Brien said. "It will be within the next three years. Not a firm production date, but soon."

In general, Hyundai is still more confident in hydrogen as the preferred zero-emission solution, and O'Brien cited range anxiety as the number one obstacle to EV adoption, with the slow recharge rate in second place. Still, strict emissions regulations mean that automakers will need to look at many options, and Hyundai is more ready than ever to dip its toes in the plug-in side of the pool.