Group behind Hyundai and Kia says it aims to halve the cost of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles by 2023, plan for extensive fuel-cell commercial vehicles and other applications
Seoul, Korea – In a remote press conference today, the Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) announced its ‘Hydrogen Vision 2040’, with the aim of promoting a hydrogen-powered alternative to current mobility.
In its own words, it wants hydrogen for “Everyone, Everything, and Everywhere…to apply fuel cell systems to all types of mobility and furthering the technology to all other aspects of society including homes, buildings and powerplants as energy solutions.”
“The goal is to make hydrogen readily used for everyone, everything, and everywhere,” said HMG chairman Euisin Chung “We want to offer practical solutions for the sustainable development of humanity and with these breakthroughs, we aim to help foster a worldwide Hydrogen Society by 2040.”
The Group’s vision includes the use of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) to power not just passenger cars, but to also replace diesels in heavy vehicles and industrial applications. At the conference, HMG showed off fuel cell (FC) powered concepts including a sports car, heavy truck/tractor, a mobile FC generator and more.
Even more eye-opening is its statement that it aims to promote “the complete transition of Korea’s public transportation and logistics systems to hydrogen-based solutions” as a sort of pilot project for wider adoption elsewhere.
The best way to sell a technology is to make it sexy, and the Vision FK is HMG’s attempt at that. This being a ‘more than five-years-ahead’ concept, there are no details about chassis or suspension tech, but the drivetrain is the exciting bit.
Hyundai says the FK could have more than 500kW/670hp, hit 100km/h from zero in less than four seconds, and pack a range in excess of 600km. Interestingly, it could be a plug-in fuel-cell electric vehicle (PFCEV), using charging from the grid for short range, and using its fuel-cell for longer journeys. But HMG has something that will be more exciting to far more people: More affordable FCEV cars.
It addressed the cost of FCEVs have been overstated in the past, now dropped by 98 percent since the first prototype in 2003. It also significantly reduced the amount of platinum needed in the catalyst, and says that possibly more cost savings could come with economies of scale.
Dr Saehoon Kim, HMG’s Fuel Cell Centre chief, said: “Our cost reduction here has been driven by technology progress such as reducing the number of components, using less materials, replacing material with more cost effective ones. But we know that in mass production, raw material cost is a key factor. Our fuel cell systems use mostly conventional material, some of it is special like membranes, but that’s only a few hundred grammes – considering material base there is no reason why FC should be expensive.”
Currently Hyundai has the Nexo FCEV SUV, which uses the Group’s second-gen FCEV powertrain. The Nexo is on sale in the USA in limited places, but the sticking point is that it costs almost as much as a BMW M3, or US$60,000+.
HMG announced the third-gen FC powertrain at the event, which is due to hit the market in 2023. It did not mention exactly which application that would be in, but our guess is a possible successor to the Nexo SUV.
It has shrunk by a third compared to the previous-gen, and more importantly sees a claimed durability increase of 50 to 100 percent, at the same time the production price of the tech has been reduced by ‘more than 50 percent’.
With that prediction, HMH says it aims to achieve price parity with electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030 – and by then, presumably, battery cell costs would have advanced and/or achieved enough economies of scale to become more affordable than they are now.
Hyundai also mentioned a low-profile FC ‘Full-Flat system’ 25cm high, which can be implemented in a variety of applications including commercial vehicles, MPVs, buses, and trams.
Hyundai’s ‘E-Bogie’ concept shows this off, as a basic, enclosed mobility system with a fuel cell powertrain and independent all-wheel steering, that can run as a cargo container mover, or even as a Rescue Drone. In fact, the company says FC tech could be applied in ‘high-performance vehicles, urban air mobility, robots, aircrafts and large ships.’