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Hyundai targets hydrogen for its electric future

FCEV Vision 2030 plan outlines commitment to become world leader in fuel cell sector for cars and beyond.

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Hyundai plans 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 rivalling the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity.

Unveiling its FCEV Vision 2030 plan, Hyundai 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.

Two million market

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.

Rapid refuelling

Principal advantages of an FCEV are the only emission being water, and 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.

According to Hyundai executive vice-chairman Euisun Chung, “the global pioneer of the commercial production of FCEVs” is taking a bold step forward.

“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,” Chung says.

“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.

Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle
Toyota’s Mirai is one of only two current fuel-cell rivals to the Nexo.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.