October was a landmark month in Hyundai Motor Company’s journey towards bringing revolutionary hydrogen fuel cell technology into the mainstream of the automotive industry with the company officially announcing the launch of the XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy-duty truck.
Speaking during the digital premiere of the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell electric heavy-duty hauler, In Cheol Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of Commercial Vehicle Division, explained that this was not a demo project with a limited scope but a vehicle ready to enter fleet operations.
“XCIENT Fuel Cell is a present-day reality, not as a mere future drawing board project. By putting this groundbreaking vehicle on the road now, Hyundai marks a significant milestone in the history of commercial vehicles and the development of hydrogen society,” said In Cheol Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of Commercial Vehicle Division at Hyundai Motor. “Building a comprehensive hydrogen ecosystem, where critical transportation needs are met by vehicles like XCIENT Fuel Cell, will lead to a paradigm shift that removes automobile emissions from the environmental equation.
He added: “We have achieved three milestones so far. We are the first in the world to successfully mass produce heavy duty hydrogen trucks, and we plan to scale up capacity to up to 2,000 units by 2021. We are the first manufacturer to commercialise hydrogen-powered trucks with cutting edge fuel technology. This is real commercialisation with daily operation of regular fleets.”
The event was an opportunity to underline the XCIENT Fuel Cell’s readiness for action and it coincided with the delivery of the first seven units to customers in Switzerland. However, this is just the start. With a total of 50 hitting the roads there this year, the delivery of XCIENT Fuel Cell marks the official entry of Hyundai’s commercial vehicles in the European market – a key touchstone for the company’s expansion into the North American and Chinese commercial markets, Lee emphasised.
“The delivery of XCIENT Fuel Cell starts a new chapter not only for Hyundai’s hydrogen push, but also the global community’s use of hydrogen as a clean energy source,” he said.
“Today’s delivery is just a beginning as it opens endless possibilities for clean mobility. With successful delivery of the first XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks, we proudly announce our plan to expand beyond Europe to North America and China where we are already making great progress.”
Hyundai wants to roll out a total of 1,600 XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks in Switzerland by 2025, a strategy it hopes reflects the company’s environmental commitment and technological prowess as it works toward reducing carbon emissions through zero-emission solutions.
“Having introduced the world’s first mass-produced fuel-cell electric passenger vehicle, the ix35, and the second-generation fuel cell electric vehicle, the NEXO, Hyundai is now leveraging decades of experience, world-leading fuel-cell technology, and mass-production capability to advance hydrogen in the commercial vehicle sector with the XCIENT Fuel Cell,” he added.
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 400km, which was developed with an optimal balance between the specific requirements from the potential commercial fleet customers and the charging infrastructure in Switzerland. Refuelling time for each truck takes approximately 8~20 minutes.
Fuel cell technology is particularly well-suited to commercial shipping and logistics due to long ranges and short refuelling 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.
Hyundai Motor is developing a long-distance tractor unit capable of traveling 1,000 kilometres on a single charge equipped with an enhanced fuel cell system with high durability and power, aimed at global markets including North America and Europe.
In 2019, Hyundai Motor Company formed Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM), a joint venture with Swiss company H2 Energy, which will lease the trucks to commercial truck operators on a pay-per-use basis, meaning there is no initial investment for the commercial fleet customers. Hyundai chose Switzerland as the starting point for its business venture for various reasons. One of the reasons is the Swiss LSVA road tax on commercial vehicles, which does not apply for zero-emission trucks. That nearly matches the hauling costs per kilometer of the fuel cell truck compared to a regular diesel truck.
Hyundai’s business case involves using purely clean hydrogen generated from hydropower.
To truly reduce carbon emissions, all of the trucks need to run on only green hydrogen. Switzerland is the country with one of the highest shares of hydropower globally, and can therefore deliver sufficient green energy for the production of hydrogen. Once the project is underway in Switzerland, Hyundai plans to expand it to other European countries as well.
As Hyundai looks to the future, zero-emissions mobility will play a significant role in the company’s strategy. In addition to the XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks, Hyundai is also the manufacturer of NEXO, its second-generation hydrogen-powered SUV. By 2025, the company aims to sell 670,000 electric vehicles annually, including 100,000 FCEVs.
In December 2018, Hyundai Motor Group announced its long-term roadmap, “Fuel Cell Vision 2030”, and reaffirmed its commitment to accelerate the development of a hydrogen society by leveraging its global leadership in fuel cell technologies. As part of this plan, Hyundai Motor Group aims to secure a 700,000-unit-a-year capacity of fuel cell systems for automobiles as well as vessels, rail cars, drones and power generators by 2030.
The planned ramping up of production capacity of the XCIENT Fuel Cell to 2,000 units per year by 2021 is expected to support an expansion into Europe, the U.S. and China as demand for clean mobility grows. The increase in capacity will be backed by a $1.3 billion investment in addition to a previously announced $6.4 billion stake in establishing a hydrogen ecosystem to support creation of a hydrogen society.
In the US, Hyundai is collaborating with logistics leaders to supply mass-produced fuel cell heavy-duty trucks. Hyundai revealed the fuel cell-powered HDC-6 NEPTUNE Concept Class 8 heavy-duty truck at the North American Commercial Vehicle (NACV) Show in October 2019, hinting at what the future holds and Hyundai’s plans for it. To back this plan, Hyundai is partnering with companies to build a complete hydrogen value chain covering everything from hydrogen production and charging stations to service and maintenance.
The North American market will also get a 6×4 tractor model. By 2030, Hyundai expects more than 12,000 fuel cell trucks to hit the U.S. roads.
Hyundai is also working with various parties in China, which aims to get one million hydrogen vehicles on its roads by 2030 as the country’s hydrogen industry is on a sharp growth trend, creating massive potential. Initially, Hyundai will focus on China’s four major hydrogen hubs: Jin-jin-ji, Yangtze River Delta, Guangdong Province and Sichuan Province.
It is currently discussing cooperative initiatives such as a joint venture with local partners.
Three fuel cell electric trucks are scheduled for launch in China: a medium-duty truck in 2022, a heavy-duty truck in in a couple of years, and another heavy-duty truck strategically designed for the China market.
With these models, Hyundai’s goal is to achieve aggregate sales volume of 27,000 units by 2030. Europe, the US and China may remain the key target markets for its hydrogen fuel cell technology over the next decade, but the company is monitoring the increased interest in greener transportation in the Middle East region. An agreement between the company and oil giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co. to partner on the supply of hydrogen-fuelled electric cars was made in June 2019 and two Fuel-Cell EV (FCEV) Elec City buses and Nexo cars were shipped to the Middle Eastern country last month.
Global expansion key
A key to Hyundai’s global expansion of fuel cell trucks will be the successful launch of XCIENT Fuel Cell in Europe. The seven customers who received the first batch of XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks will haul payloads of consumer goods around Switzerland, emitting nothing but clean water. The operations will be backed by a robust green hydrogen ecosystem.
In 2019, Hyundai Motor Company formed Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM), a joint venture with Swiss company H2 Energy. HHM also is partnering with Hydrospider, a joint venture of H2 Energy, Alpiq and Linde. The customers will be leasing XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks from HHM on a pay-per-use basis that does not require an initial investment. Hyundai will take the success in Switzerland to broader European markets as Hyundai establishes solutions and partner networks in Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and Austria.
As part of its production expansion plan, Hyundai expects to reach its target of 1,600 commercial fuel cell trucks by 2025. Currently, Coop, Migros, Traveco, Galliker Logistics, Camion Transport, F. Murpf AG and G. Leclerc Transport AG along with others have placed orders for XCIENT Fuel Cell. They will be utilising the trucks to haul everything from food to cars around Europe.
To support the growing hydrogen ecosystem, Hyundai has a business case for around 100 hydrogen fuelling stations in Switzerland, which is enough not only for commercial vehicles, but also passenger fuel cell electric vehicles. Likewise, Hyundai plans to act as a sector coupler in bringing various players to the hydrogen value chain as part of its efforts to bring value.
Hyundai will introduce a full model change for XCIENT Fuel Cell that will sit on a dedicated hydrogen fuel cell truck platform in the next few years. The new model will feature an e-axle and two 200-kW fuel cell systems that are under development. The new model lineup will include 4×2 and 6×2 cargo trucks and 4×2 tractors that can cover a significant portion of Europe’s major heavy-duty truck market. The 44-ton GCW tractor will have a range of up to 1,000 kilometres on a single charge. These models will help the effort to replace pollutant-emitting diesel-powered trucks.
Hyundai has been devoting itself to further develop fuel cell technology and establish the supply chain to realise a ‘Hydrogen Economy’ for a better and cleaner future, an effort receiving worldwide acclaim. Hyundai Motor’s Hydrogen Mobility Solution won the Truck Innovation Award at the International Truck of the Year (IToY) awards last year, and XCIENT FC won the Innovation Award in hydrogen energy and fuel cell technology at the 5th Shanghai Forum held on September this year.