Fuel cell trucks enroute from Korea to Switzerland

Hyundai Xcient trucks shipping to Switzerland

Hyundai Motor Co. (OTC: HYMTF) is shipping the first 10 of its mass-produced Xcient hydrogen-powered fuel cell heavy-duty trucks from South Korea to Switzerland, where fleets will take possession in September. 

Hyundai plans to ship 50 trucks by the end of the year and 1,600 by 2025.

While startup Nikola Motors (NASDAQ: NKLA) plans Class 8 fuel cell truck production from a new plant south of Phoenix in 2023, Hyundai revealed plans with Swiss company H2 Energy and a prototype at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Germany in September 2018.

Switzerland is the launching point for the zero-emission Xcient because it is exempt from the Swiss road tax on trucks weighing more than 3.5 tons. Without the tax, fuel cell truck hauling costs per kilometer is on par with a diesel truck. 

A Hyundai-H2 Energy joint venture was formed in 2019. It will lease the Xcient to commercial truck operators on a pay-per-use basis. That means commercial fleet customers make no initial investment. 

Hyundai’s business case calls for using green hydrogen generated from hydropower. Switzerland is among the leaders in hydropower. That means it can deliver sufficient green energy for hydrogen production. Once operating in Switzerland, Hyundai plans to expand it to other European countries.

Xcient for real

“Xcient Fuel Cell is a present-day reality, not a mere future drawing board project,” said In Cheol Lee, Hyundai Motor executive vice president and head of the Commercial Vehicle Division.

The Xcient is powered by a 190-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell system. It has dual 95-kW fuel cell stacks. Seven large hydrogen tanks store about 32.09 kilograms of hydrogen. It can travel approximately 250 miles on an eight-to-20-minute fill-up.

The dual-mounted fuel cell system provides enough energy to drive the heavy-duty trucks up and down Switzerland’s mountainous terrain.

Hyundai and H2 Energy will build hydrogen stations across Switzerland for commercial vehicles and passenger cars.

Long-term roadmap

Hyundai revealed its long-term roadmap for a hydrogen society In December 2018. It aims by 2030 for a 700,000-unit-a-year capacity of fuel cell systems for cars, trucks, rail cars, drones and power generators.

Hyundai showed a prototype successor to the Xcient, the HDC-6 Neptune, at the North American Commercial Vehicle show (NACV) in Atlanta in October 2019. The HDC-6 Neptune features a spacious cab positioned in the front of the tractor with full glass surrounding the driver that eliminates blindspots through opaque A-pillars.

Also at NACV, Hyundai Translead, the company’s trailer division, showcased a refrigerated trailer concept that utilizes liquid nitrogen for refrigeration.

Hyundai and  Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) signed a memorandum of understanding in September 2019 to develop and commercialize electric and fuel cell powertrains for North American commercial vehicle makers. They also will work on stationary backup power systems for data centers.

“They’ve certainly been looking at the Chinese market, where there is a lot of support from policy makers for fuel cell trucks,” Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst with Guidehouse told FreightWaves. “Wherever there is an infrastructure and interest in fuel cell trucks, I can see them going in with products.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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