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Kia to launch fuel-cell vehicle by end of decade

The company does not expect to sell more than 1,000 units when the hydrogen-powered vehicle arrives on the market.

Kia has outlined a five-year plan to expand its lineup with more "environmentally friendly" vehicles, including more hybrids and a hydrogen-powered model.

The company promises its green-car range will nearly triple from four current models to 11 by 2020, starting with an Optima plug-in hybrid and the Niro hybrid crossover.

By the end of the decade, the Korean automaker aims to begin mass producing an all-new fuel-cell vehicle. The company claims to be working with 300 partner companies to develop next-generation fuel-cell technology that will be sold in global markets.

"Production of the new Kia FCEV is aimed to be around 1,000 units per year, a figure expected to rise as demand for fuel cell vehicles increases," the company said in a statement.

The mystery FCEV is said to feature a fuel stack similar in size to a 2.0-liter internal-combustion engine. It is expected to be more efficient and produce 10 percent more power than current-generation technology, despite being 15 percent lighter and smaller.

There are still only a handful of hydrogen refueling stations open in the US, mostly in California. Some locations have been been plagued by reliability issues, forcing owners to drive long distances to another station or receive a partial tank fill. Kia has not directly addressed the current refueling limitations, however the company will attempt to mitigate concerns by building its FCEV with a range of nearly 500 miles on a single tank of hydrogen.

The company has been working on fuel-cell technology since 1998, when the limited-production Mohave FCEV arrived on the market with a range of more than 425 miles.

Hyundai Motor Group plans to spend more than $10 billion investing in hybrid, electric and fuel-cell technology to achieve its 2020 goals.

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