Hydrogen houses: Hyundai to expand fuel-cell tech beyond cars and trucks
By Sourced Externally
September 8, 2021
Hyundai’s Hydrogen Vision 2040 could revolutionise much more than just how we travel on land, sea and air.
Hyundai says the future of fuel is hydrogen, and whereas it once took us to the stars, now it could not only change how we travel on land, by sea and in the air, it could also change our lives.
Hyundai’s bold ‘Hydrogen Vision 2040’ unveiled today states that hydrogen fuel-cell power will trigger a lifestyle revolution as significant as the smartphone upon its launch in 2006.
It says that hydrogen power will be “for everyone, everything and everywhere” by 2040, and is crucial to ensuring a sustainable future for private, public and commercial transportation.
Speaking to global media at the Hydrogen Wave online forum today, Hyundai Motor Group chairman Euisun Chung said “this may be the last train to a Hydrogen Society, and time is running out. Hydrogen is the most powerful and pragmatic solution to overcoming environmental challenges. Hydrogen mobility will accelerate human progress.”
Hyundai calls Hydrogen Vision 2040 a “carbon neutrality solution via an energy paradigm shift”.
Hyundai Motor Group, one of the world leaders in hydrogen fuel-cell development for automotive applications, today broadened the scope of hydrogen power’s potential to all aspects of our daily lives.
It said the technology has the ability to power not only the cars we drive but all forms of transport – including trams, trains, trucks, airplanes and large ships.
Hydrogen could also provide electricity and heating to buildings, and supplement (or even supplant) many other areas of contemporary energy.
Most of the applications previewed by Hyundai today were transport-related, however.
Hyundai’s e-Bogie trailer drone concept (below) is a self-driving, four-wheel-steering, hydrogen-powered autonomous skateboard that could be used to move shipping containers, trucks, buses, trams and even trains of the future.
The e-Bogie – so named because it resembles the ‘bogie’ wheels of train carriages – is one part of Hyundai’s overarching strategy to make hydrogen “for everyone, everything and everywhere by 2040”.
In addition to the e-Bogie, Hyundai has committed to applying fuel cell systems to all of its heavy commercial vehicle models by 2028, a move it says will significantly reduce transport-related CO2 emissions.
Hyundai says production costs for fuel-cell systems have come down ten-fold since it began work in the sector in 1998, and it expects to make another huge leap with the next-generation fuel-cell systems scheduled for launch in 2023, effectively making next-generation tech one-50th of the production cost of 1998 systems.
“The Group is planning to introduce a new-generation fuel cell system in 2023 that realizes a reduced price and volume with significantly improved durability and output,” the company said in a statement. “By ensuring price competitiveness, the Group’s goal is to achieve a fuel cell vehicle price point comparable to a battery electric vehicle by 2030.”
Before then, Hyundai will launch the third-generation Nexo fuel-cell vehicle in the middle of 2023, followed by a fuel-cell powered version of the just-launched Staria people mover.
Other models for Hyundai, Kia and Genesis – all part of the Hyundai Motor Group – will follow, but not before 2025.
But Hyundai is focusing first on heavy commercial vehicle applications, an area where it says it can make a big environmental impact more quickly using hydrogen technology.
“We are working full throttle on commercial [first] because that is the most effective way to avoid CO2,” said Hyundai Motor Group’s head of research and development Albert Biermann. “We are putting a lot of focus on fuel cells, not only for passenger cars but also for commercial vehicles.”
Biermann said the days of internal-combustion engines (ICE) are drawing to a close.
We will not immediately phase out ICE commercial vehicles, but we are not starting any new developments of ICE. No new models and no new platforms. Everything will go forward with BEV and FCEV.”
Biermann says the future for commercial vehicles will be fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), but he could not say what share each would represent.
“It depends a lot on the regional situation and the support in the region for availability of hydrogen. It also depends on the application. In some areas battery electric might have majority. In other applications, especially commercial vehicle or fleet operation, we will see more fuel cell electric. So it’s hard to tell a share at this point in time, but of course we are preparing both ways.”
Hyundai’s commercial fuel cell program is already well advanced. In the middle of 2020, 45 Hyundai Xcient fuel-cell trucks began commercial operation in Switzerland. According to Biermann, the trucks cover 210,000km per month and have saved 130 tonnes of CO2 emissions every month.
Mass production has already begun on the Xcient’s successor which promises greater performance, and development work has begun on a tractor based on the Xcient fuel cell that will be released in 2023.
In addition, Hyundai is developing a 5-7m-long fuel cell PBV (or ‘purpose-built vehicle’) targeted at the global light commercial vehicle (utes and vans) market, which it says could hit seven million units annually.
The key to all these commercial applications is Hyundai’s third-generation fuel cell system which is in the final stages of development. Hyundai expects to launch two units in 2023, one producing 100kW for passenger vehicles and SUVs, and a 200kW unit for commercial applications which can be applied singularly or in multiples for a modular approach.
According to Mr Lee, “by using two systems for trucks we can provide around 350kW which is equivalent to the power of current diesel engines.”
The big challenge with long-haul, zero emission, heavy-duty truck operation is refuelling infrastructure, refuelling time and range.
According to the Hydrogen Council, a global CEO-led initiative of leading energy, transport, industry and investment companies, hydrogen energy will account for 18 percent of global energy demand by 2050, with a market size of $US2.5 trillion ($AU3.36 trillion). The popularisation of hydrogen energy will also help cut CO2 emissions by more than six billion tons a year, while creating over 30 million new jobs, according to the firm.