The other day, I was passed (illegally) by some guy in a big American pickup with diesel power. The engine’s abundant torque sent the truck booming by me in a wall of noise and a cloud of soot. Not too far away, just off Interstate 95, a flotilla of big rigs sat in the sprawling parking lot of a chain truck stop, most of them idling to keep the air conditioning churning away inside their cabs. Diesels for heavy trucks have long faced federal emissions requirements, but let’s face it, they’re not fully clean. Hyundai has a solution that may mitigate that reality over the long term. It’s just shipped the first 10 units of its new XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy-duty commercial truck to Switzerland, where the trucks will be handed over to actually trucking fleets in September. Hyundai has been one of the world’s most active automakers when it comes to fuel-cell technology, and plans to produce 1,600 of the XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks by 2025.
If you’re still learning about this avenue of green technology, fuel cells provide accumulated, compressed hydrogen for a vehicle’s internal-combustion engine to burn, an element of creating electricity. The zero-emission XCIENT Fuel Cell truck utilizes a 190kW hydrogen cell system incorporating a pair of 95kW fuel-cell stacks, fed by seven large hydrogen storage tank. That’s what’s concealed behind the metal fairing aft of the cab and ahead of the truck’s rear axle. The range per full charge is said to be 400km – about 248.5 miles – with eight to 20 minutes required for refueling. The range calculation factors in the mountainous driving that’s standard in Switzerland. With an obvious eye on American trucking, Hyundai is now working on a long-distance tractor unit with an enhanced fuel cell system that it says will be able to travel 1,000km on a single charge. The XCIENT Fuel Cell truck was created out of a joint venture between Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility and Swiss-based H2 Energy, which will lease the trucks to fleet operators. Hyundai is going all-in on this technology. It already builds the NEXO, its second-generation hydrogen-fueled SUV, and plans to be selling 670,000 EVs annually by 2025, including 110,000 fuel cell EVs. By 2030, Hyundai plans a capacity of 700,000 fuel-cell systems a year to power road vehicles, ships, railroad equipment and even drones.