Image credits: Hyundai Motor Co.
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News Article

Heavy-Duty Fuel-Cell Vehicles Are Here

By Alejandro Enríquez | Tue, 07/07/2020 - 11:55

The race for developing high-efficient, low-emission heavy vehicles continues. Hyundai announced that the first units of the Hyundai XCIENT model were shipped to Switzerland. The South Korean giant plans to ship a total of 50 units to Switzerland this year and a total of 1,600 units by 2025. 

Heavy-duty fuel-cell vehicles are electric vehicles with a range and fueling time equivalent to diesel today. "Fuel-cell technology is particularly well-suited for commercial shipping and logistics due to long ranges and short refueling times. The dual-mounted fuel-cell system provides enough energy to drive heavy-duty trucks up and down the mountainous terrain in the region," said Hyundai on a statement.

The XCIENT model is powered by a 190kW hydrogen fuel-cell system, with a storage capacity of 32.09kg of hydrogen. The range of the vehicle is approximately 400km and refueling time goes between eight and 20 minutes. “Building a comprehensive hydrogen ecosystem, where critical transportation needs are met by vehicles like XCIENT’s fuel cell, will lead to a paradigm shift that removes automobile emissions from the environmental equation,” said In Cheol Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of Commercial Vehicle Division at Hyundai Motor.

Hyundai is not the only one betting on fuel cells. Nikola is basing its business model on this technology. The US start-up is focused on developing heavy-duty fuel-cell vehicles. Despite the fact that the company has not produced a single vehicle yet, Nikola's market capitalization on June 9 (US$34 billion) surpassed that of Ford (US$28.8 billion) and FCA (US$20.5) soon after the company went public in early June.

The company assures that fuel-cell vehicles deliver the same benefits as their electric counterpart as they use the same electric motors. However, fuel-cell vehicles eliminate many issues derived from battery electric vehicles such as long recharge times, limited range, cold start and added weight. 

According to McKinsey & Company, hydrogen production and distribution costs, including those related to equipment, will decrease by up to 50 percent by 2030. Fuel-cell vehicles can reduce emissions in their production processes as hydrogen fuel can be produced from a variety of renewable sources, such as solar, which is the alternative used by Nikola. In addition, these vehicles weigh less and have a longer range, which according to Nikola can be between 805km and 1200km.

As with EVs, fuel-cell vehicles need charging infrastructure. Hyundai’s partnership with H2 Energy will lease trucks to commercial operators in the Swiss Alps to diminish initial investment and ensure charging infrastructure availability. Nikola, meanwhile announced plans to develop 50 charging stations across Europe, while in the US the company estimates around 700, at a pace of 100 stations a year, according to Nikola's Founder Trevor Milton.
 

Photo by:   Hyundai Motor Co.
Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst

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