Hyundai has never sold trucks in Europe before, but in 2020 that changes and this year Hyundai’s hydrogen hopes will see it put its first 50 trucks on the road in Switzerland. Hyundai also has ambitious plans to take the total number in that country to 1,600 within the next five years, Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Will Shiers investigates.
Other European countries will follow soon after. The reason why I describe this first foray into Europe as ‘ambitious’, is because all of them will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The H2 Xcient trucks will be supplied though Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HMM), a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Company and H2 Energy. They will be powered by 100 per cent green hydrogen, produced by Hydrospider, a collaboration between Alpiq, H2 Energy and Linde.
The innovative business model sees Swiss hauliers taking the trucks on eight-year contracts, paying on a per km basis. Mark Freymuller, president of commercial vehicle eco-friendly business development at Hyundai Motor Company, told me this fee will include the truck, maintenance, battery replacement and hydrogen supply, “which makes it much easier for customers to replace diesel trucks without worrying”.
He explained that HMM will establish a hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, using existing fuel stations to keep costs down, and “solving the age-old chicken and egg problem”.
While HMM will attempt to make the trucks as cost-effective as possible, Rolf Huber, chairman of H2 Energy, acknowledged that in most cases the hydrogen trucks will have a slightly higher total cost of ownership (TCO) than equivalent diesel-powered vehicles. “If you’re looking for the cheapest truck, this probably isn’t it,” he said, before explaining that the more miles a customer covers, the smaller the gap in cost between hydrogen and diesel.
He said they start by understanding a potential customer’s business, then calculate their current TCO. “Then once we have a benchmark, we try our hardest to match it, which involves some negotiating,” he added.
The negotiating seems to work, as according to Freymuller “the smallest of all the problems we face is attracting customers”. He said the first batch of 50 trucks all have hauliers waiting, and he sees no issue with finding customers for the other 1,550 due by 2025.
In fact, the company is also talking to potential customers in Austria, France, Germany and Holland, and expects to expand out of Switzerland this year. Huber explained that target countries are those with financial incentives for operating the cleanest trucks.
But one potential problem the company faces is setting up an after-sales network. It immediately ruled out piggy-backing on the car network, so instead is looking for European partners.
But that’s not all. Hyundai’s hydrogen hopes recently made a huge splash stateside, when it previewed its HDC-6 Neptune Concept Class 8 heavy duty truck (see breakout box) at the North American CV Show (NACV) in Atlanta, Georgia.
Although it admits to currently not having a large enough fuel cell to power an 80,000lb (36.2-tonne) truck, it is only a matter of time. Edward Lee, executive vice president of Hyundai Motor Company’s CV business division, said: “We believe this is the fuel for the next 100 years, and Hyundai will be the biggest player. This is the core business for our company.”