Hyundai Motor said on Wednesday it will sell 1,000 hydrogen-powered trucks in Switzerland over the next five years through a new tie-up, betting the vehicles could beat battery-powered models sold by the likes of Tesla Inc.
South Korea’s Hyundai and Japan’s Toyota are among a handful of car makers doubling down on hydrogen vehicles amid an intensifying global race to develop greener technologies to replace combustion engines, as regulators around the world crack down on emissions.
The deal, which will double Hyundai’s hydrogen vehicle sales, marks its latest push into a technology that has lagged battery electric vehicles.
Hyundai, whose profits have tumbled due to a heavy reliance on low-demand sedans, hopes to burnish its brand image by taking the lead in hydrogen cars.
Hyundai Motor said on Wednesday it will sell 1,000 hydrogen-powered trucks in Switzerland over the next five years through a new tie-up, betting the vehicles could beat battery-powered models sold by the likes of Tesla Inc
On Wednesday, Hyundai said in a statement it will partner with Swiss hydrogen company H2 Energy and fuel cell operators to provide 1,000 hydrogen trucks in the country after launching at the end of 2019 what it says will be the world’s first commercial hydrogen trucks.
It did not provide any financial details.
The launch timeline is ahead of battery-powered trucks Tesla and Daimler plan to introduce in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Hyundai announced a partnership with Audi in June to share each other’s hydrogen car technology and components to bring down production costs and make the technology profitable.
For long-haul, hydrogen trucks have a huge advantage over battery rivals as heavy batteries can reduce cargo capacity and require longer charging times, Mark Freymueller, a commercial vehicle director at Hyundai Motor, told Reuters.
Hyundai said its hydrogen trucks are expected to deliver a single-fueling travel range of around 400 kilometres.
‘We are not planning just purely 1,000 vehicles and then stop the business… We expect that much more is coming afterwards,’ he said, adding Hyundai would look at launching it in the United States, China and other European countries.
Freymueller said expanding into other markets, however, will depend on finding partners such as pump operators and hydrogen suppliers.
HOW DO HYDROGEN FUEL CELLS WORK?
Hydrogen fuel cells create electricity to power a battery and motor by mixing hydrogen and oxygen in specially treated plates, which are combined to form the fuel cell stack.
Fuel cell stacks and batteries have allowed engineers to significantly shrink these components to even fit neatly inside a family car, although they are also commonly used to fuel buses and other larger vehicles.
Oxygen is collected from the air through intakes, usually in the grille, and hydrogen is stored in aluminium-lined fuel tanks, which automatically seal in an accident to prevent leaks.
These ingredients are fused, releasing usable electricity and water as byproducts and making the technology one of the quietest and most environmentally friendly available.
Reducing the amount of platinum used in the stack has made fuel cells less expensive, but the use of the rare metal has restricted the spread of their use.
Recent research has suggested hydrogen fuel cell cars could one day challenge electric cars in the race for pollution-free roads, however – but only if more stations are built to fuel them.
Fuel cell cars can be refueled as quickly as gasoline-powered cars and can also travel further between fill-ups.
Fuelling stations cost up to £1.5 million ($2 million) to build, so companies have been reluctant to build them unless more fuel cell cars are on the road.
The U.S. Department of Energy lists just 34 public hydrogen fuelling stations in the country; all but three are in California.
According to Information Trends, there were 6,475 FCV’s worldwide at the end of 2017.
More than half were registered in California, which puts the U.S. (53 per cent) at the forefront for FCV adoption.
Japan takes second place with 38 per cent, while Europe is at nine per cent.
The uptake of hydrogen cars, which are propelled by electricity generated by fuel cells, has been held back by a lack of infrastructure, which costs 3 billion won ($2.7 million) each to build in South Korea.
Hyundai Motor launched the industry’s first mass-produced hydrogen car Tucson Fuel Cell in 2013, followed by NEXO this year.
It has sold about 1,140 fuel cell vehicles so far, while Toyota sold 6,700 Mirai hydrogen cars since its launch in 2014.
Hyundai and affiliate Kia Motors are hedging their bets on hydrogen cars with a plan to release 14 battery electric vehicles by 2025. ($1 = 1,120.3300 won)