Why Hyundai Pursues Hydrogen Gas Cell Automobiles

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Are hydrogen vehicles a pipe dream? Hyundai says no.

Final week we took our first spin the 258-mile Hyundai Kona Electrical. However that wasn’t the one Hyundai electrical automobile we drove. We additionally spent an hour or so on the street with the Hyundai Nexo fuel-cell electrical automotive. I can already hear the loud, collective groan from EV followers questioning why Hyundai continues to hassle with hydrogen. So we put that query to Hyundai people.

Earlier than we get to their reply, I ought to point out that – for those who put apart the broader, actual issues about EV versus hydrogen know-how and infrastructure – the Nexo was the nicer of the 2 automobiles. The Nexo is a muscular, environment friendly small crossover with sharp traces, a hanging floating cover, and a high-tech however accessible cockpit. The Nexo was noticeably quieter and extra refined than the Kona Electrical.

So why energy the Nexo or any automobile with hydrogen? Dr. Bo Ki Hong, a Hyundai fuel-cell analysis fellow, in his technical presentation, argued hydrogen energy plant is healthier suited to bigger, longer-range automobiles whereas battery-powered EVs are a greater match for smaller, shorter-range vehicles. The Nexo has 380 miles of driving vary and will be refueled in about 5 minutes. Dr. Bo mentioned there will likely be 59 hydrogen stations in operation in California by the top of 2019.

The Hyundai Nexo at a hydrogen-fueling station

I requested Mike O’Brien, Hyundai’s vice-president of product planning, to elaborate on the query of auto measurement and electrical powertrains. “A battery-electric automobile is sweet for any private automobile the scale of the Kona, a midsize sedan, or smaller,” he mentioned. “Nevertheless it turns into a difficulty once you get previous a full-size SUV or full-size pickup.” He argued that Class eight vehicles, just like the Tesla Semi, can carry as much as 80,000 kilos. “When you consider the quantity and weight of batteries, it’s fairly immense,” O’Brien mentioned. However with a liquid gasoline or hydrogen, there is no such thing as a engineering limitation relating to the quantity it takes to ship an satisfactory quantity of vitality for a Class eight truck.

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“There’s little question that battery know-how is advancing,” mentioned O’Brien. “However we all know in the present day and from back-of-napkin calculations, that hydrogen has larger capabilities for the foreseeable future.” He mentioned that hydrogen is scalable for any sort of auto, together with buses and trains. Take into account that Hyundai additionally producers industrial automobiles.

A sensible play?

Gil Castillo, senior group supervisor for various automobile technique for Hyundai, rode with us within the Hyundai Nexo. He echoed O’Brien’s level. “As batteries get higher, they make sense for small and medium vehicles and ultimately barely greater vehicles,” mentioned Castillo. “However sooner or later, particularly once you get into heavy-duty automobiles, batteries run into limitations.” He mentioned that the fee, measurement, and vitality curves for each batteries and gasoline cells are at all times altering, so it is sensible to contemplate each applied sciences for the total vary of automobiles in use.

The Nexo’s cockpit

“It takes dedication from a excessive company degree to say that we have to develop each applied sciences,” mentioned Castillo. “It’s a sensible play contemplating that every part continues to be in flux.”

Castillo defined that the Nexo fuel-cell SUV and the Kona battery-powered crossover are each electrical automobiles. They usually share most of the similar energy electronics. “It takes sources to develop each applied sciences, but it surely’s not a zero-sum recreation,” he mentioned. “The stuff you develop for one are used within the different one.”

You’ll be able to serve nearly all of shoppers with an EV however not 100 % of them.

Castillo mentioned that customers purchase a variety of full-size SUVs and pickups in america. “You’ll be able to serve nearly all of shoppers with an EV however not 100 % of them,” mentioned Castillo. He mentioned that many individuals who dwell in multi-family dwellings don’t have entry to charging. “We’ve to develop battery know-how as a result of it’s going to play a significant position,” he mentioned. “I believe gasoline cell is not going to play the key position, however it is going to be complementary. The objective is to fill the entire spectrum throughout the whole transportation ecosystem.”

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