Image credits: Robert Bosch Global
News Article

GM, Hyundai Advance Fuel Cell Technology

By Alejandro Enríquez | Wed, 06/23/2021 - 12:08

US GM and South Korean Hyundai recently announced fuel cell technology projects for the transportation industry. GM is focusing on developing its proprietary Ultium batteries and hydrogen fuel cell solutions for the rail industry, while Hyundai is upgrading its fuel cell heavy-duty trucks. 

Hyundai’s Renewed XCIENT Model

Hyundai recently upgraded its XCIENT Fuel Cell model, the world's first mass-produced heavy-duty truck model powered by hydrogen. The South Korean auto group is the most experienced carmaker in the fuel cell technology field, according to industry reports. “Hyundai Motor is leveraging more than 20 years of experience in fuel cell technology to further its vision of an eco-friendly hydrogen society,” said Jaehoon (Jay) Chang, CEO and President of Commercial Vehicle Division at Hyundai Motor Company. “With 2021 XCIENT Fuel Cell, Hyundai will contribute to the widespread adoption of commercial vehicles powered by hydrogen.”

Last year, the first 50 XCIENT models were shipped to Switzerland and Hyundai expects to sell 1,600 units by 2025, as reported by MBN. The 2021 XCIENT model received an upgraded design and performance but its main specifications remain the same, explained Hyundai. The new model is equipped with a 180-kW hydrogen fuel cell system, this time divided in two 90-kW fuel cell stacks. Hydrogen storage capacity remains at about 31 kg, with an autonomy of around 400 km and a refueling time of between 8-20 minutes, same as in the previous model. The new model does offer a 6x2 rigid body configuration as well as the 4x2 option from the previous model. 

Hyundai will ship 140 XCIENT Fuel Cell units to Switzerland by the end of 2021, almost three times what it shipped last year. The company’s goal remains the same: to sell 1,600 heavy-duty fuel cell electric trucks to the EU by 2025.

GM's Fuel Cell Venture for the Rail Industry

Separately, GM developing fuel cell technologies, but not precisely for vehicles. The company recently announced an agreement with Wabtec Corporation to develop and commercialize GM's Ultium battery technology and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell systems for Wabtec trains. 

"We’ve been saying time and again that GM is 'all in' on electrification and a zero-emissions future. Now, we’re also 'all aboard,'" wrote Mark Reuss on LinkedIn. Rafael Santana, CEO and Preident of Wabtec, agreed that the rail sector is also on the path of sustainability. “The rail industry is on the cusp of a sustainable transformation with the introduction of batteries and hydrogen to power locomotive fleets. By working with GM on Ultium battery and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell technologies, we can accelerate the rail industry’s path to decarbonization and pathway to zero-emission locomotives," said Santana. 

HYDROTEC are fuel cell power cubes designed by GM for a wide range of applications. The fuel cell systems are manufactured by Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing LLC, a joint venture between GM and Honda.

When will this technology arrive to Mexico?

Miguel Elizalde, President of ANPACT (the industry association representing heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers), told MBN that although EVs are a reality, there is still a long way to go, given Mexico's vehicle park age. "The advancement of EV trends will rely on battery life. A heavy EV requires a greater initial investment than diesel. When taking into account that the average age of Mexico’s heavy-vehicle park is 22 years for freight transportation and 19 for buses, the leap into electrification might seem complicated. Before getting to EVs, however, the market will experiment with other technologies such as hybrid and natural gas vehicles. This does not mean we are not ready to use this technology. Many electric buses are already used in public transportation across different cities but we need to think about ROI and the incentives the industry requires," he said.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Hyundai, GM
Photo by:   Robert Bosch Global
Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst