A flood of fuel cell technology?

A flood of fuel cell technology?

With the climate crisis ever looming, it is reassuring that various industry players and governments are doing what they can for a brighter tomorrow. A new report* estimates that the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 45.5% from 2022, reaching US$43.2 billion by 2031.

The report highlights the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle industry’s great potential to address global environmental concerns regarding pollution and carbon emissions in the near future.

It adds that the global development and adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is a main driver of market growth during the forecast period, noting: “Nations are rapidly changing the policies regarding the subsidies for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to achieve their net zero carbon emission target.”

Hyundai Motor Company shares the sentiment that hydrogen is the clean energy solution for commercial vehicles, including energy-intensive heavy-duty trucking. This is due to hydrogen’s various advantages in production, transportation, distribution, and storage.

Hydrogen, as a high-density energy carrier, allows fuel cell electric vehicles to provide the sustained energy output suitable for long-haul driving and carrying heavy loads. These vehicles also minimise downtime compared to battery electric vehicles, due to shorter refuelling times.

At a Hyundai Motor press conference showcasing its new Xcient Fuel Cell tractor**, Ken Ramirez, the company’s executive vice president and head of global commercial vehicle and hydrogen fuel cell business, emphasised the importance of achieving carbon neutrality to realise the company’s vision of “Progress for Humanity”.

“We firmly believe that hydrogen is one of the most powerful and pragmatic solutions for achieving our vision of ‘Progress for Humanity’ with emission-free mobility as a fundamental pillar for a sustainable society,” said Ramirez at the event.

“Our hydrogen fuel cell technology has pioneered the industry, with a real-world proven track record of its efficiency and durability,” he continued. “We are leveraging these merits to further transform transportation with hydrogen energy for a broad range of mobility applications, including commercial vehicles, marine vessels, and even air mobility.”

First launched in 2020, the Xcient Fuel Cell truck has been deployed in five countries – Switzerland, Germany, Israel, Korea, and New Zealand – and has successfully accumulated over four million miles so far. 

“It is the only heavy-duty fuel cell electric model with a proven record of real-world application and technological reliability. The model shown at the event is the 6×4 tractor equipped with two 90-kW hydrogen fuel cell systems and a 350-kW e-motor. Its maximum gross combination weight is more than 37 000 kg and it offers a driving range of over 700 km per charge even when fully loaded,” said Martin Zeilinger, executive vice president and head of Hyundai Motor’s commercial vehicle development.

The Xcient Fuel Cell truck implements the hydrogen fuel cell system offered by HTWO, Hyundai Motor Group’s hydrogen energy-dedicated business brand. HTWO’s business includes the application of Hyundai’s proprietary fuel cell systems for various forms of mobility, such as advanced air mobility, automobiles, vessels, and trains, as well as for stationary power generation. 

Zeilinger also participated in an industry panel discussion at the event. The discussion, “Staying Ahead of the Curve: Emerging Vehicle Availability”, covered fleet procurement, fuel cell storage systems, leading technologies for next-generation fuel cell electric vehicles, and timing of commercialisation. Zeilinger highlighted how Hyundai Motor is a pioneer in fuel cell technologies with field-proven products and services deployed worldwide.

“Hyundai has been focusing on hydrogen for over 20 years,” Zeilinger said. “Our advanced fuel cell technology already is in use through various applications and especially in the commercial vehicle sector, showing its powerful performance and reliability.”

At the press conference, Mark Freymueller, senior vice president and head of commercial vehicle business innovation at Hyundai Motor, also revealed the company’s plan for Xcient Fuel Cell trucks. He underlined the company’s partnerships for forming a solid hydrogen value chain, stressing that they are the building blocks towards accelerating the deployment of clean fleets in the US.

“For years, we have been initiating hydrogen value chains in various regions. Together with our partners, we are making hydrogen mobility a viable solution for our customers. We go beyond the truck itself to include areas such as hydrogen refuelling and truck maintenance,” said Freymueller. “Here in the US, we plan to do the same, since each case needs its tailor-made service approach, especially during the transition phase from traditional to hydrogen. We plan to provide the best hydrogen value chain scenario for each and every customer.”

Hyundai Motor Group also plans to foster the development of a clean hydrogen ecosystem through a “waste-to-energy” initiative, in which the hydrogen production system uses the biogas extracted from organic waste such as food waste, livestock manure, and sewerage sludge. The clean hydrogen is applied in various industries, including transportation, construction, and power generation.

The Group is currently demonstrating the concept business model with a local South Korean government as well as reviewing the expansion of the demonstration to cities outside South Korea.

The floodgates seem to have opened for fuel cell technology, which bodes well for the future.

* The report, Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Market, was published by Allied Market Research, the market research and business-consulting wing of Allied Analytics based in Portland, Oregon.

** The press conference showcased the Xcient Fuel Cell tractor for the North American commercial vehicle market. It took place at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo, held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California from 1 to 4 May 2023.

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