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Hyundai extends hydrogen highway with new XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy-duty trucks


With European countries set to legislate internal combustion engines out of existence by 2040 and other countries expected to follow suit, Hyundai has revealed a plan to change the world’s road transport industry using hydrogen fuel cell power.

Its European campaign already started, Hyundai’s road map shows North America and China next on the ‘hydrogen highway’ with the rest of the world set to follow.

Hyundai’s XCIENT Fuel Cell is the world’s first series production, hydrogen fuel cell-powered truck. Seven have already been delivered in Switzerland and 50 more will be there by year’s end.

Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway are next and Hyundai expects that number to reach 2,000 units by the end of next year, supporting not only its European expansion but also its push into the US and Chinese markets as demand grows for clean transport solutions.

The increase in capacity will be backed by a significant US$7.7bn investment in hydrogen infrastructure, a value chain covering everything from hydrogen production and charging stations to service and maintenance.

Hyundai expects to have more than 12,000 fuel cell trucks on US roads by 2030, helping achieve a 27,000 unit aggregate sales volume by that time.

Strong growth in China’s hydrogen industry promises massive potential and Hyundai is already planning on having a million hydrogen vehicles – cars and trucks – on Chinese roads by 2030.

Hyundai’s medium-term goal is to offer 4×2 and 6×2 rigids and a 4×2 prime mover in most markets with a 6×4 prime mover specifically for the US market. It is also talking about fuel ranges of up to 1,000 kilometres

Built using a converted conventional truck chassis, XCIENT Fuel Cell replaces the conventional drivetrain with a battery pack, hydrogen tanks, two 95kW fuel cell stacks, an electric motor and a regenerative braking system.

The fuel cells, which convert hydrogen to electricity, are borrowed from Hyundai’s Nexo passenger vehicle and mounted in place of the conventional internal combustion engine.

The large 72kW/h battery pack sits low in the middle of the chassis with the 340kW electric motor positioned alongside, driving the rear wheels through a six-speed transmission.

The hydrogen tanks – combined capacity 32kg – are mounted horizontally behind the cabin. They give an approximate 400km driving range and fill time is between eight and 20 minutes. Power is 190kW but there is no mention of torque output.

Comparing hydrogen fuel cell power to battery-electric power, Hyundai says battery-electric trucks have reduced cargo capacity because of the battery’s size and weight, which consumes around 25 per cent of the carrying capacity to give the same performance levels as its hydrogen counterpart.

Hyundai is already making noises about a full model change that will include 4×2 and 6×2 rigids and a 4×2 prime mover using a dedicated platform rather than an existing platform and featuring an e-axle and two 200kW/h fuel cell systems (which are currently under development) for an anticipated 44-tonne haul capacity and 1,000 kilometre operating range on a single hydrogen fill.

That range would cover most of the European and North American heavy-duty truck markets.

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