Hyundai Motor Co. bringing Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Heavy Duty Trucks into U.S. commercial vehicle market

May 10, 2022
For starters, it will deploy 30 Class 8 6x4 XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy-duty tractors at the Port of Oakland, California, in 2023. The deployment is part of Hyundai’s involvement in the NorCal ZERO project

South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co., which already is accelerating its e-mobility push, also is ramping up its hydrogen fuel-cell models for U.S. commercial vehicle fleets.

Hyundai announced this week that its XCIENT Fuel Cell Trucks are entering the U.S. commercial vehicle market. For starters, it will deploy 30 Class 8 6x4 XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy-duty tractors at the Port of Oakland, California, in 2023. 

The deployment is part of Hyundai’s involvement in the NorCal ZERO project. ZERO stands for Zero-Emission Regional Truck operations with Fuel Cell Electric Trucks.

“Our ultimate goal is to fight climate change and build a sustainable future. We are running out of time to limit global warming,” said Mark Freymueller, senior vice president and head of commercial vehicle business innovation at Hyundai Motor Co. “We believe that there is no way around hydrogen to realize the energy transition towards renewables. And amongst others, it also offers already today a practical and viable solution to decarbonize the heavy-duty commercial vehicle sector providing excellent drive range, payloads and refueling time on our trucks.”

Hydrogen is a high-density energy carrier and considered ideal for long-haul driving and heavy loads compared to battery electric vehicles. Hydrogen does emit greenhouse gases when burned, but it must be created through either steam reforming of methane gas or by electrolysis, separating the atom from water. "Green hydrogen" is produced when the electrolyzer is powered by zero-carbon resources such as wind, solar or nuclear.

Thus, the company is focused on deploying a growing fleet of XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks, the world’s first mass produced fuel cell electric heavy-duty truck. An early deployment in Switzerland, starting in 2020, now has achieved a cumulated range of 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles) as of April 30, according to Hyundai. 

"Hyundai Motor is a leader in the hydrogen fuel cell market with decades of experience and proven expertise. Our proven record of success with commercial fuel cell programs in Korea and Europe has been critical to our launch of heavy-duty fuel cell trucks in North America,” said José Muñoz, President & COO of Hyundai Motor Company, in a statement. “Deploying XCIENT Fuel Cell tractors at the Port of Oakland for the NorCAL ZERO Project is just the beginning of our goals as we work with partners to fight climate change and build a more sustainable future.” 

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Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it was releasing $200 million in funding for developing zero-emission truck applications including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Hyundai believes that the total cost of ownership for these kinds of fleets will drop significantly in coming years, while environmental and supply chain issues will drive development of more zero-emission engine technologies.

Hyundai is expected to announced a deeper push into U.S. electric vehicle manufacturing and assembly soon. The company is talking to officials in Georgia about a potential EV assembly plant, according to multiple news reports.

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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 14-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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