World‘s first fuel cell heavy-duty truck enters operation

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJuly 7, 2020

Hyundai Motor Company has shipped the first 10 units of the Hyundai XCIENT Fuel Cell to Switzerland, with 40 more to come this year, and handover to commercial fleet customers starting in September.

XCIENT Fuel Cell is the world‘s first mass-produced fuel cell heavy-duty truck. Hyundai plans to roll out a total of 1600 XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks by 2025, reflecting the company‘s environmental commitment and technological prowess as it works toward reducing carbon emissions through zero-emission solutions.

“XCIENT Fuel Cell is a present-day reality, not as a mere future drawing board project. By putting this groundbreaking vehicle on the road now, Hyundai marks a significant milestone in the history of commercial vehicles and the development of hydrogen society,” said In Cheol Lee, executive vice president and head of Hyundai Motor‘s Commercial Vehicle Division.

XCIENT is powered by a 190kW hydrogen fuel cell system with dual 95kW fuel cell stacks. Seven large hydrogen tanks offer a combined storage capacity of around 32.09kg of hydrogen.

The driving range between refuelling for XCIENT Fuel Cell is about 400km (4×2 truck with refrigerated up fit configuration, 34-tonne truck and trailer combination), which is an optimal balance between the specific requirements from the potential commercial fleet customers and the charging infrastructure in Switzerland. Refuelling time for each truck takes approximately 8 to 20 minutes.

Hyundai says fuel cell technology is particularly well suited to commercial shipping and logistics, due to long ranges and short refuelling times. The dual-mounted fuel cell system provides enough energy to drive the heavy-duty trucks up and down the mountainous terrain in the region.

Hyundai Motor is developing a long-distance tractor unit capable of traveling 1000km on a single tank equipped with an enhanced fuel cell system with high durability and power, aimed at global markets including North America and Europe.

“Building a comprehensive hydrogen ecosystem, where critical transportation needs are met by vehicles like XCIENT Fuel Cell, will lead to a paradigm shift that removes automobile emissions from the environmental equation,” said Lee.

In 2019, Hyundai Motor Company formed Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM), a joint venture with Swiss company H2 Energy, which will lease the trucks to commercial truck operators on a pay-per-use basis, meaning there is no initial investment for the commercial fleet customers.

Hyundai chose Switzerland as the starting point for its business venture for various reasons. One of the reasons is the Swiss LSVA road tax on commercial vehicles, which does not apply for zero-emission trucks. That nearly equalises the hauling costs per kilometre of the fuel cell truck compared with a regular diesel truck.

Hyundai‘s business case involves using purely clean hydrogen generated from hydropower. To truly reduce carbon emissions, all of the trucks need to run on only green hydrogen. Switzerland is the country with one of the highest shares of hydropower globally, and can therefore deliver sufficient green energy for the production of hydrogen. Once the project is under way in Switzerland, Hyundai plans to expand it to other European countries as well.

Zero-emissions mobility will play a significant role in the company‘s future. By 2025, the company aims to sell 670,000 electric vehicles annually, including 110,000 Fuel Cell electric vehicles.