Hyundai is going all-in on the most abundant element in the universe in the quest to reduce planet-warming emissions. The South Korean automaker announced that hydrogen will “play a prominent role” in the company’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050.
“Clean hydrogen should be for everyone, power everything and be available everywhere,” Jay Chang, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor Company, said in a statement.
As the auto industry shifts to electric vehicles, a small but growing group of companies are also embracing hydrogen fuel cell technology as part of their plans to eliminate tailpipe emissions. Honda, Toyota, GM and Hyundai all have detailed plans to produce fuel cell vehicles for both individual and commercial use.
Hyundai is not new to hydrogen. The company claims to be ‘at the forefront of hydrogen’ and has been mass producing fuel cell electric vehicles for years. Hyundai says it now has “the world’s highest market share in hydrogen car sales.”
Hyundai is not new to hydrogen
Hyundai says it will use hydrogen in the passenger cars, trucks and buses it produces, as well as in trams, specialty equipment, ships, power generators and advanced air mobility.
The company will lead this transition through HTWO, the group’s hydrogen fuel cell systems brand, which was first launched in 2020. Through HTWO, Hyundai expects to purchase 3 million tons of hydrogen per year by 2035 for logistics, steelmaking and power generation.
Hydrogen fuel cells use compressed hydrogen as fuel, with water vapor being the only emission. However, one of the biggest challenges is the lack of hydrogen charging and refueling infrastructure, especially in North America.
Even though the technology has been in development for decades, there are only just over 50 gas stations in California, most clustered around Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The East Coast is trying to get in on the action, with a handful of stations in operation and more in the works in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Hyundai expects to purchase 3 million tons of hydrogen per year by 2035
The energy content of hydrogen per volume is low, which makes storing hydrogen a challenge because it requires high pressures, low temperatures or chemical processes to be stored compactly. Overcoming this challenge is important for light vehicles, as they often have limited size and weight capacity for fuel storage.
Hyundai is also committing to its software development, announcing a “Software-Defined Everything” strategy “that aims to transform all moving devices, fleets and ecosystems into valuable assets through advanced software and AI.”
Other automakers are also developing software-defined vehicles as they rush to compete with Tesla, which has come to define what customers expect from their car software. The idea is that a vehicle is sold with a basic level of hardware and its features are largely determined by its software, which can be updated and improved with over-the-air updates.
Hyundai is the latest to embrace this step. The company said it is “turning everything into a software-defined approach, from vehicle development to building the entire mobility ecosystem.” This includes new approaches to infotainment, including an app library and the development of software development kits (SDKs) that allow developers to create “killer apps.”
And of course that also includes artificial intelligence. Hyundai says it will integrate a major language model into its in-car voice assistant to enable more natural interactions between car and driver. The company recently took a $100 million stake in AI chip maker Tenstorrent to underscore this commitment.