Genesis Motors – the luxury division of Hyundai Motor Co. – unveiled its fuel cell GV80 Concept SUV at the 2017 New York International Auto Show. This is the brand’s first go at a luxury SUV.

Genesis said the design of the GV80 hints at the future of its product development. Though the concept’s fuel cell powertrain is theoretical, the use of plug-in hydrogen fuel cell electric technology marks the beginning of the brand’s deeper dive into the benefits of alternative propulsion systems.

“This concept is an important milestone for the brand to share our vision of the future, introducing a further expansion of our product portfolio,” said Manfred Fitzgerald, head of the Genesis Brand.

By 2021, the Genesis brand plans to have 6 vehicles in the U.S. market, two of which will be crossovers, said Jim Trainor, a spokesperson for Hyundai. “You can surmise that this concept will eventually find its way into the CUV segment.”

Genesis is also studying different alternative fuel options for future vehicles. Toyota, Honda and Hyundai all have fuel cell programs. The Hyundai Tucson fuel cell launched three years ago, and while the company doesn’t report sales figures for the alternative powertrain, the vehicle has seen nearly 4 percent growth in the first quarter of 2017.

Genesis GV80 concept interior

Genesis GV80 concept interior. (Photo: Genesis)

The market for fuel cell autos is expanding albeit at a slower pace, Trainor said.

“The infrastructure is growing on a daily basis. It’s not fast, but we’re looking at all options,” he said. “Fuel cell offers a lot that other [alternative powertrains] do not, and the clean car philosophy around fuel cells can never be beat.”

The exterior of the SUV is both representative of its luxury and capability. The front of the GV80 Concept showcases the Genesis crest above a diamond mesh grille and wide-set horizontal quad headlamps.

The SUV has 23-inch mesh alloy wheels meant to reduce weight and cool the large brake system. The door handles are electronic and sit flush on the door for increased aerodynamic performance. The lower rear fascia has integrated vents to cool elements of the alternative powertrain.

The interior features a bridge instrument panel with a wide 22-inch curved digital display set that has a classic speedometer. The GV80 features semi-aniline leather interior and quilted diamond stitching on the interior door panels, seat inserts and the sides of the center console.

The top of the center console and the floorboards are ash wood and have an organic aesthetic. The slate ash wood is also used in the cargo area along with dark gray leather. Metal tie downs provide added function.

The Genesis GV80 SUV concept will help the brand capitalize on the American market’s shift to larger utility vehicles. Through March, sport utility vehicles made up over 65 percent of all light truck sales. Sales of SUVs in the first quarter grew nearly 10 percent while the overall vehicle market decreased 1.5 percent.

So far, the Genesis lineup comprises sedans – the G80 and G90 – a segment that now only represents 38 percent of all vehicle sales. Both passenger cars were recently launched and are still gaining traction in the market.

“The Genesis brand gains momentum as G80 and G90s continue to arrive at dealerships,” said Erwin Raphael, U.S. general manager of Genesis. “Sales were up for both models over February.”

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