Hyundai Motor (HMC) is ramping up production of hydrogen fuel-cell trucks that emit only water, with the goal of steadily replacing diesel-dominated logistics fleets worldwide.

    Before we dive in, here’s a top-down view of the Hyundai hydrogen announcement and the state of play with hydrogen vehicles:

    • Hydrogen fuel-cell truck on sale in Europe
    • Cost parity between FCEV and diesel trucks expected as early as 2030
    • Right-hand drive next-gen FCEV truck for UK, Australia from 2025 with a projected 1000km range and sub-15 minute refills to reduce downtime
    • Hyundai aims to partner with infrastructure providers to create business cases that don’t depend on grants
    • FCEV’s have fewer onboard batteries than BEV trucks like the Tesla concept, increasing potential payload
    • Only tailpipe emission of an FCEV truck is water, but the hydrogen must be produced with renewables to make a real impact. Likely export deals will be contingent on precisely this
    • Australia seen as a global lynchpin in the hydrogen economy because of our copious sun, wind and hydro potential, to power H2 production
    Hyundai's hydrogen fuel-cell trucks in Australia as soon as 2025

    Hyundai this week delivered the first seven left-hand drive (LHD) Hyundai Xcient fuel-cell electric (FCEV) trucks into Switzerland, with 50 total planned by year’s end.

    The Korean juggernaut bills the Xcient as “the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell electric heavy-duty truck” that runs on pressurised hydrogen, which is turned into electricity onboard when combined with oxygen. The range is understood to be about 400km.

    The selling point is an equivalent driving range and refilling times (through a fuelling station installed in an industrial base designed for constant use) to a diesel truck – unlike a slower-charging battery truck that requires more downtime – with none of the tailpipe NOx or CO2 emissions.

    It’s designed to tow up to 26 tonnes or carry about 9t in rigid form, and has two 95kW fuel cell stacks pinched from the Hyundai Nexo FCEV SUV and a 350kW/3400Nm Siemens motor/inverter. It carries a 73kWh battery but also 32kg of hydrogen, refilled at 350 bar.

    Hyundai's hydrogen fuel-cell trucks in Australia as soon as 2025

    Production capacity for the FCEV truck will grow to 2000 units per annum from 2021 “to support its expansion into Europe, the USA and China as demand for clean mobility grows”. The company has pumped a claimed US$7.7 billion into the project.

    In detailing its FCEV truck expansion, Hyundai says it projects to supply 1600 commercial FCEV trucks into Europe by 2025, and claims fleet partners such as Coop, Migros, Traveco, Galliker Logistics, Camion Transport, F. Murpf AG and G. Leclerc Transport AG has placed orders on its own Xcients.

    Hyundai claims to have the business case for 100 refuelling stations across that country alone, and through joint-ventures with H2 and Hydrospider plans to roll out vital commercial filling infrastructure across Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.

    It also projects more than 12,000 light, medium and heavy duty trucks to hit the US, and 27,000 to hit China, by 2030 – helped along by country-specific partnerships between the truck-maker and local infrastructure providers.

    Hyundai's hydrogen fuel-cell trucks in Australia as soon as 2025


    Australia has placed a big focus on generating hydrogen energy for export. There are major recognised opportunities to offshore hydrogen made with renewable energy (rather than through the natural gas chain) to Korea, Japan, and elsewhere as demand ramps up.

    “Australia has one of the biggest potentials for creating hydrogen, Australia alone can produce all the energy for the world,” Hyundai Motor senior vice president of Hyundai Fuel Cell R&D, Dr Sae Hoon Kim, told us recently.

    “Geographically it’s fairly close to Korea… and there was a study suggesting if you produced hydrogen and exported it, the cost will be about $3 (per kilo).

    “So bless Australia, I think, because you have been selling coal and now you can also export the sunshine,” he added, alluding to using solar power to drive electrolysis to make hydrogen, or in other words storing the sun’s energy in H2.

    Hyundai's hydrogen fuel-cell trucks in Australia as soon as 2025

    In terms of products, the LHD Xcient FCEV is unlikely to come here – though garbage trucks can be LHD – however in 2024/25 Hyundai promises a full model change sitting on a dedicated FCEV truck platform with right-hand drive confirmed for the UK and Australia.

    This next-gen truck is expected to have an e-axle and two 200kW fuel-cell systems, come in 4×2 and 6×2 rigid trucks or tractor cabs, a 44t GCW target, and a driving range per refill of 1000km.

    If the H2 can be pressured at 700 bar, refilling times will be cut by a few minutes, and the system should theoretically weigh far less than a chassis full of batteries, growing the potential payload and improving economy.

    So in summary, we’re expecting RHD FCEV trucks to lob in Australia from 2025, with commercially viable refillers in industrial areas designed designed to recoup their costs through heavy use. HMC expects cost parity with diesel trucks from as early as 2030.

    MORE: Plans afoot to make hydrogen electrolysers and fuelers in Australia
    MORE: Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle arrives in Australia
    MORE: 2020 Toyota Mirai review
    MORE: Daimler axes hydrogen car development

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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