Electric and hybrid vehicles are all the rage in the U.S., especially with Tesla pushing their boundaries. However, those in the know about futuristic auto trends continue to wonder when fuel cells will become the norm. If Hyundai has anything to say about it, the answer is 2022.
Fuel Cell Crash Course
If the term “fuel cell engine” is new to you, then here’s a quick snippet on these designs from tomorrow. Engines run on gasoline, batteries run on electricity, and fuel cells run on nothing but hydrogen (better known as the H in H2O).
These cells utilize hydrogen to power anything from a utility power station facility to a laptop or, in this case, a vehicle. The hydrogen allows them to produce the electricity needed to run a car all on their own. They don’t need to be charged and they don’t run down.
The fuel cell engine separates hydrogen molecules into protons and electrons to create its electricity, which flows through the circuits of an automobile. During this process, the only biproducts created are heat and water. No carbon-dioxide, no smog, no anything but a little bit of water and steam coming out of the tailpipe. As you can imagine, this is highly appealing to environmental-minded manufacturers.
Hyundai and Fuel Cells
It’s going to be a while before passenger cars implement fuel cells. Right now, only a few manufacturers make cars that run on fuel cells and even less states have created hydrogen charging stations. California is leading the charge, but there are roughly 40 charging stations across the nation.
Instead of focusing on the passenger vehicle market, Hyundai went all out by creating hydrogen-powered commercial trucks. The company has already seen great success in Switzerland and now plans to implement a pilot program in California in 2022.
Fleets that have signed up for the program will collectively receive between 3,000 to 5,000 trucks to get started. Their XCIENT brand fuel cell trucks are the world’s first of their kind to be mass-produced, not to mention in full use.
These cabover-style commercial trucks have a range of roughly 248 miles thanks to their 190-kW cell system and dual 95-kW cell stacks, both of which can be fully refueled in eight to twenty minutes. That’s comparable to their diesel counterparts and faster than their other electric competition by about 40 minutes.
Looking to the Future
Hyundai is ready to push hydrogen fuel cell technology forward, eliminating vehicle emissions altogether. Their HDC-6 NEPTUNE concept truck, unveiled at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in 2019, also included highly futuristic designs.
Among them were impressive possibilities for implementing safety features, including everything from AI to monitoring capabilities that would aid any Sacramento truck accident attorney while building a case. Like all of these futuristic components, however, fuel cell technology remains costly.
Since hydrogen is denser than diesel or gasoline, the technology in the engines costs more to produce. The same goes for charging station infrastructure. Don’t worry, though, Hyundai and other major names from Volvo Group to Daimler and Nikola Corp. are working around the clock to make this ideal fuel source a common reality.