What is the Hyundai Hydrogen Wave?

Hyundai Motor Group (the Group) has detailed its vision for a global hydrogen society, one it expects to help popularize by 2040. Under a broad mission statement that calls for hydrogen to be made available to everyone and for everything, everywhere, the Group calls its contribution to the coming surge of fuel cell-powered transportation, industry, and societal solutions the “Hydrogen Wave.”

“Hyundai Motor Group’s vision is to apply hydrogen energy in all areas of life and industry such as our homes, workplaces, and factories,” said Chairman of the Group, Euisun Chung. “We want to offer practical solutions for the sustainable development of humanity, and with these breakthroughs, we aim to help foster a worldwide Hydrogen Society by 2040.”

Hyundai Vision FK Hydrogen Sports Car

Currently, and especially in the U.S., hydrogen as a power source is a curiosity among consumers. Plus, fuel cells are hard for people to understand, even if the science behind them is simple. However, the Group has been working undeterred on hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) since 1998 and began mass-production of its Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell in 2013.

The Group admits that fuel cells are expensive and that a global hydrogen infrastructure barely exists. Nevertheless, the company claims that since 2003, the cost of fuel cells has dropped by 98%. By 2030, the automaker predicts, FCEVs will reach cost parity with battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

Today, Hyundai’s FCEV models include the Nexo crossover SUV and the Xcient heavy-duty truck. New 100-kW and 200-kW fuel cells will be available starting in 2023, more compact and powerful than before and at half the cost of those currently used in the Nexo and Xcient.

Future fuel cell applications could include a variety of transportation solutions. From performance cars like the Vision FK Prototype (shown in camouflage above), which the Group co-developed with Rimac Automobili, to an autonomous vehicle called the e-Bogie (shown as a Rescue Drone below) that the automaker likens to a smart robot with wheels that can be used in a wide variety of situations, fuel cells are practical and applicable. 

Hyundai E-Bogie Rescue Drone

The Group has even devised the H-Two, a portable hydrogen-fueled power charger designed to provide zero-emission electricity in remote and emergency situations. Assemble them like Lego blocks, and the company’s vision suggests these fuel cell generators could collectively power entire cities.

In the short-term, in addition to rolling out its new fuel cell stacks for passenger and heavy-duty trucks in the middle of the 2020s, the Group says it will electrify all of its new commercial vehicles by 2028. After that, the company’s buses and heavy-duty trucks will have either battery-electric or fuel cell power. By doing so, it can cut emissions faster while perfecting the technologies for heavy-duty, long-range use.

In the long-term, the Hydrogen Council predicts that hydrogen energy will account for 18% of global energy demand by 2050, cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by six billion tons annually, and create over 30 million new jobs worldwide. Whether such predictions come true is yet to be seen, but the Group plans to work overtime to make it happen.

Hyundai E-Bogie Trailer Drone

Hyundai believes its broad business portfolio in global transport and logistics positions it to lead the change to hydrogen through rapid scaling of innovative technologies. From personal and commercial transport to shipping via rail and by sea, the Group sees a blank-slate opportunity to transform the world with hydrogen in the same way Apple and other tech companies did with smartphones.

Success, however, is dependent on clean hydrogen production, hydrogen storage solutions, continued improvements in fuel cell technology, and the infrastructure to support a hydrogen economy. The Group’s Hydrogen Wave strives to solve this puzzle, and no later than 2040.

Hyundai Motor Group is the source of information for this article. It was accurate on September 7, 2021, but it may have changed since that date.