You’ve heard the expression, go big, or go home?
Well, that is exactly what Hyundai is doing, when it comes to hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Acording to a Reuters report, South Korea’s Hyundai Motor plans to ship a new series of XCIENT fuel cell trucks to Europe later this year, turning up the heat on rivals in a battle to test the viability of hydrogen-powered heavy goods transport.
But they are not stopping there.
The Asian industrial giant has also launched a pilot project to rev up demand for fuel cells by marketing them beyond the auto industry, Nikkei Asia reported.
These shipping container size “boxes” contain compact powerplants with a capacity of 500 kW, enough for 1,100 average households, according to the automaker.
Stoking demand for these core systems could make production more cost-effective — giving the company an edge over rival Toyota Motor — and promote the infrastructure needed for the technology to spread.
The test run for the compact generators at the Ulsan facility, which began in January, aims to take advantage of the city’s hydrogen production.
Ulsan, a petrochemical industry hub, generates 820,000 tons of hydrogen per year as a byproduct of refining, about half the country’s total from that source.
“It’s an optimal energy source for South Korea, which is poor in natural resources,” the manager of Hyundai’s hydrogen energy development team said. If the test run goes well, the company plans to introduce the hydrogen generators elsewhere in South Korea and abroad.
The South Korean company looks to expand production of fuel cell systems as well. Affiliated parts maker Hyundai Mobis looks to bring a second plant at its Chungju facility online in 2022, increasing capacity more than tenfold to 40,000 units per year.
The group also is working on a factory in Guangzhou, slated to open in 2022 as well, that will be able to churn out about 6,500 yearly.
Hyundai aims to supply fuel cell systems not only to Chinese automakers, but also to manufacturers of products such as industrial equipment and drones.
This clean-burning fuel is expected to enjoy stronger demand amid the global pivot away from fossil fuels. Tokyo-based Fuji Keizai forecasts the worldwide market for fuel cell systems to reach 4.96 trillion yen (US$45.5 billion) in fiscal 2030, ballooning by a factor of 18 from fiscal 2019.
Meanwhile, a new class of the XCIENT Hyundai truck, equipped with more efficient fuel cells with longer life-span, is due to arrive in Europe in the fourth quarter, said Mark Freymueller, CEO of Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM).
Hydrogen lags electric batteries in the green transport stakes because it is more expensive, but proponents say for long-haul transport hydrogen-powered trucks have the advantage because they have a greater range.
HHM, a joint venture between Hyundai and Swiss hydrogen company H2 Energy, has been renting out “green” hydrogen trucks to commercial clients in Switzerland since last October in the world’s most advanced pilot in the field.
HHM plans to go into other European countries next year.
“Germany and the Netherlands are the most likely,” Freymueller told Reuters, adding there was also interest for pilots from Austria, Norway, France, Italy, Spain and Denmark.
Hyundai’s latest push will put more pressure on local players, which are developing their own hydrogen plans.
These include Germany’s Daimler with Sweden’s Volvo and Italy’s Iveco, a unit of Italian-American vehicle maker CNH Industrial, which is cooperating with low-emission truckmaker Nikola.
Hydrogen has come into the spotlight in Europe, where EU environment ministers want truck CO2 emissions cut by a third by 2030 from 2019 levels, threatening potential diesel bans and higher taxes but promising up to 75% of lower road tolls for greener vehicles.
A study by consultancy Berylls Strategy Advisors reckons that by 2030, 25% of new truck sales in Europe will be battery powered and 10% fuel cell. But the ratio could change if green hydrogen is scaled up, it said.
And Hyundai is not the only company hedging its bets.
US engine maker Cummins, due to start building a fuel cell system factory in Herten, Germany, later this year, sees no conflict.
“Fuel cells will complement the BEV (battery electric vehicle) system in places where energy storage, range, weight and power requirements are unable to be met by batteries alone,” said Amy Davis, president of New Power at Cummins.
“That’s why we are investing in the electric vehicle drivetrain components, because we think those will be maturing too, and they will be key to both fuel cells and batteries.”
2021 XCIENT Fuel Cell facts:
- Equipped with a 180-kW hydrogen fuel cell system with two 90-kW fuel cell stacks, newly modified for this heavy-duty truck model.
- The 350-kW e-motor features a maximum torque of 2,237 N·m further enabling dynamic driving performance.
- Seven large hydrogen tanks offer a combined storage capacity of around 31 kg of fuel, while three 72-kWh high voltage batteries provide an additional source of power.
- The maximum driving range of 2021 XCIENT Fuel Cell is set to be around 400 km (249 miles).
- Refueling a full tank of hydrogen takes about 8 to 20 minutes, depending on the ambient temperature.
- 2021 XCIENT Fuel Cell will be available in a 6×2 rigid body configuration as well as the 4×2 option introduced in the previous model.
- As of May 2021, the cumulative driving range of those trucks in operation reached more than 750,000 km. Over that distance, the hydrogen-powered trucks have reduced carbon emissions by an estimated 585 tons, compared to diesel-powered vehicles.
- Hyundai also plans to present XCIENT Fuel Cell to the North American market this year.
Sources: Nikkei Asia, Reuters, Hyundai, GreenCongress.com