This article is part of the special topic "Future Mobility".

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Hyundai introduced its first fuel cell electric vehicle in 2000.
Hyundai introduced its first fuel cell electric vehicle in 2000.
( Source: gemeinfrei / Pexels)

SHIFT MOBILITY 2020 Hyundai demonstrates how OEMs can extend beyond mobility

Author / Editor: Cate Lawrence / Isabell Page

This week Hyundai cemented their commitment to hydrogen technology by shipping its proprietary fuel cell system to Europe for use by non-automotive companies. The company recently appeared at SHIFT mobility and discussed why mobility innovation should not be limited to mobility solutions.

Hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technology is an area of the automotive industry that is becoming increasingly important as more manufacturers in the mobility space commit to lowering their environmental footprint and strive for climate-neutral targets. The EU’s hydrogen strategy pledges that from 2030 onwards, renewable hydrogen will be deployed at a large scale across all hard-to-decarbonize sectors.

At part of the recent SHIFT Mobility conference, Hyundai Motor Group hosted an open discussion about clean energy sources that will empower future zero-emission mobility, including a deep dive into fuel cell technology and the steps towards a hydrogen society.


What are hydrogen fuel cells?

Hydrogen Fuel Cells are an electrochemical power generator that combines Hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, with water and heat as by-products. Hydrogen fuel cell technology produces virtually zero harmful emissions, also improving air quality and the health of humans and fauna.

Fuel cell technology is well suited to heavy-duty transport like commercial shipping and logistics due to long ranges and short refueling times.

Hyundai’s commitment to hydrogen fuel cell innovation

Hyundai has been working on fuel cells since 1998. According to Albert Biermann, President and Head of R&D Division at Hyundai Motor Group: “Our strategy is to create an entire eco-mobility ecosystem. We want to connect the dots and create an eco solution for all areas, not just mobility, including maritime, alternative energy storage, and hydrogen generation.” This is part of a trend in mobility where companies are expanding their reach beyond their own vehicles to broader use cases across a growing number of industries.

Sae Hoon Kim, Vice President & Head of Fuel Cell Division at Hyundai spoke at SHIFT mobility about the coexistence of hydrogen fuel cells and batteries, noting that batteries ubiquity could be attributed to their longevity as a technology: “When we can start mass production, hydrogen power will coexist with batteries and follow a trajectory of expansion. Hydrogen will even be used to create steel.” The company asserts that by 2050 hydrogen could count for 18% of the energy consumed.

Fuel cell electric cars

This is Hyundai NEXO.
This is Hyundai NEXO.
(Source: Hyundai)

The company introduced its first fuel cell electric vehicle in 2000, the Santa Fe FCEV, followed by the world’s first mass-produced FCEV, the ix35, in 2013, and the second-generation NEXO Fuel Cell (only available in California currently), the world’s first dedicated hydrogen-powered SUV in 2018. Part of Hyundai’s growing eco-vehicle portfolio. Based on a dedicated vehicle platform, NEXO has a range of 380 miles (609 km) on a single charge. Refueling is as short as five minutes, making it comparable to gasoline-powered SUV in terms of both range and refueling speed. The car recorded nearly 5,000 units sold in 2019, leading global FCEV sales.

Fuel cell trucks

In July, Hyundai shipped the first 10 units of XCIENT Fuel Cell, the world’s first fuel cell heavy-duty truck, to Switzerland with the company intending to roll out 50 trucks this year and a total of 1,600 units by 2025. XCIENT is powered by a 190-kW hydrogen fuel cell system with dual 95-kW fuel cell stacks. Seven large hydrogen tanks offer a combined storage capacity of around 32.09 kg of hydrogen. The driving range per charge for XCIENT Fuel Cell is about 400kmand refueling time for each truck takes approximately 8~20 minutes.

Hyundai’s XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy-duty truck.
Hyundai’s XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy-duty truck.
(Source: Hyundai)

Fuel cell technology is particularly well-suited to commercial shipping and logistics due to long ranges and short refueling times. The dual-mounted fuel cell system provides enough energy to drive the heavy-duty trucks up and down the mountainous terrain in the region.

Albert Biermann asserts, “While people talk about hydrogen as the energy solution of the future for mobility, we demonstrate that the future is already here. We’ve passed the piloting stage, and now we’re in mass production with our trucks.”

Urban Air Mobility

Hyundai is also working to reduce the weight of the fuel cell system with plans to incorporate the fuel cell system into urban air mobility, announcing at this year’s CES their partnership with Uber to develop electric air taxis. Hyundai will produce and deploy the vehicles while Uber will provide aerial ride-share services. Hyundai shared at CES that they expect to hit production in 2028 but acknowledged the regulatory challenges that lie ahead.

Export of Fuel Cell Systems to Europe

Hyundai Motors HFC system to be used by non-automotive OEMs.
Hyundai Motors HFC system to be used by non-automotive OEMs.
(Source: Hyundai)

Hyundai is not only focused on supplying fuel cell vehicles but also building hydrogen charging stations, and establishing the use of fuel cell systems across a range of industries. This week, the company began shipping its proprietary fuel cell system to Europe for use by non-automotive companies including a Swiss hydrogen solution firm, GRZ Technologies Ltd. Using Hyundai’s fuel cell system, the company plans to produce a stationary power supply system to be used for building electricity at peak times. The fuel cell system is based on the one used in Hyundai NEXO. In addition, Hyundai began shipping the fuel cell system to an energy solutions startup that manufactures electric generators. The startup will use Hyundai’s system to produce mobile hydrogen generators.

Sae Hoon Kim notes that “Next year we will launch our next level modular electric vehicle platform and work on the third generation of fuel cell technology that will bring a significant reduction in cost, increase durability and improve efficiency further.”