Hyundai hydrogen-fueled trucks making inroads in Europe

South Korean automaker gets jump on rivals‘ fuel cell-powered big rigs

For Nikkei Asia

JENS KASTNER, Contributing writerApril 5, 2022 13:46 JST

HAMBURG, Germany — Whenever the Hyundai Xcient fuel cell truck owned by Austrian logistics company Gebrueder Weiss pulls into a customer’s loading yard, it grabs people’s attention.

A large 0 on the side, together with smaller text reading „zero emission green hydrogen“ marks it as the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell heavy-duty truck model — basically an electric vehicle that gets its juice from a hydrogen cell instead of a battery.

Gebrueder Weiss has been operating its Xcient since January 2021 in Switzerland, the country Hyundai chose as its launchpad into Europe. In the coming months, Hyundai will expand into neighboring Germany and Austria, along with Denmark, where partners H2 Energy, based in Zurich, Singapore’s Trafigura and Phillips 66 of the U.S. are investing 300 million euros ($331 million) to create a corridor of 260 hydrogen fueling stations. H2 Energy played a key role in the development of the Xcient.

Meanwhile, the fuel cell trucks of rivals, such as Daimler and MAN, are still in the prototype stage. Hyundai, by contrast, already has 47 Xcients carrying loads for 25 customers in Switzerland.

„In its first year of service, our hydrogen truck made 70,000 km without any issues, despite Switzerland’s mountainous terrain constituting a real challenge for the reliability of trucks,“ Juergen Bauer, a member of Gebrueder Weiss‘ board, told Nikkei Asia.

„Unlike battery-powered electric trucks, our Hyundai’s range is virtually unaffected by the driver’s use of heating or air conditioning. And once a sufficiently large network of hydrogen refueling stations is realized along European highways, the hydrogen truck will be able to run practically unlimited distances, thanks to short refueling times,“ Bauer said.

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