Stalling the Kia FCV launch will allow hydrogen powertrain prices to drop before the technology moves downmarket.

Hyundai Group has confirmed plans to stagger arrival of its next two fuel-cell vehicles.

The company will launch its next Hyundai-badged FCV next year, five years after the Tucson FCV landed in showrooms, while the Kia FCV will be brought to market in 2020.

Hinting at the high costs of current hydrogen powertrains, the Tucson FCV and its Japanese rivals are only available via lease in the US. All appear to serve as second vehicles for most owners, severely limiting demand. Even the Toyota Mirai averages less than 100 deliveries each month in the US.

Hyundai-Kia Eco Technology Center senior vice president Lee Ki-sang suggests the company's next-generation fuel cell technology is expected to elevate sales volume into the tens of thousands of units, according to an Automotive News report. Still, demand must climb before per-unit costs drop to a level that makes sense for a Kia model with a cheaper price tag.

"We thought [2020] was good timing to introduce a fuel cell to the market in Kia," Lee said. "In the meantime, we will reduce the material costs dramatically."

The next Hyundai FCV was previewed in the futuristic FE Fuel Cell Concept that debuted in Geneva. The improved powertrain will be more efficient, lighter and with longer range than that of the Tucson.

The Korean automaker is hedging its bets against hydrogen, with plans for eight new plug-in hybrids and as many pure EVs by 2020.

Image by Ronan Glon.