The Hyundai Motor Group is to invest billions of pounds in hydrogen fuel cell technology in a bid to become the world leader in the field.
The South Korean firm – which includes the Kia and Genesis brands – is one of only three manufacturers to produce a commercially available hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, with its Nexo FCEV heading off against the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity. Unveiling its FCEV Vision 2030 plan, it now aims to expand fuel cell production capacity to 700,000 systems annually by 2030 – and move beyond the automotive sector into drones, ships, trains and power generators.
Hyundai expects the global market for fuel cell powertrains to grow to around two million units per year by then.
The investment of 7.6 trillion South Korean won (circa £5.4bn) will provide for a new production facility in Chungju, South Korea, and the group expects around 51,000 jobs to be created by 2030.
Hyundai’s Nexo FCEV is its first fuel cell vehicle on a dedicated platform, following the ix35 Fuel Cell of 2013.
Fuel cell vehicles are seen by some as a possible future alternative to pure-electric vehicles. They use an electric powertrain but with a comparatively small battery – power is instead provided by a fuel cell stack capable of converting pressurised hydrogen into electricity.
The principal advantage of an FCEV is the ability to refuel in just a few minutes at a fuel station, rather than being faced with a lengthy wait for an electric car to charge. However, critics say that production of hydrogen fuel is far less efficient than charging an electric vehicle. Hydrogen infrastructure is also lagging behind, with just 15 stations across the UK providing the fuel, compared with approximately 19,000 individual EV charging points.
Euisun Chung, executive vice-chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, said: “Hyundai Motor Group, the global pioneer of the commercial production of FCEV, is taking a bold step forward to expedite the realisation of a hydrogen society.
“We will expand our role beyond the automotive transportation sector and play a pivotal role in global society’s transition to clean energy by helping make hydrogen an economically viable energy source. We are confident that hydrogen power will transcend the transportation sector and become a leading global economic success.”
Hyundai confirmed earlier this year that it would collaborate with the Volkswagen Group to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology, primarily with the Audi brand.