Here’s another milestone for Hyundai, one of the biggest proponents of hydrogen fuel cell tech in the industry. The Korean company has announced its plan to deploy hydrogen fuel cell electric heavy-duty trucks in California, for two publicly funded projects to improve the air quality in the US state.

The demo trucks that Hyundai will bring into the Golden State are developed based on Xcient Fuel Cell, the world’s first mass-produced, heavy-duty truck powered by hydrogen that debut last year. The Xcient FC has proven its commercial viability through more than one million km of driving in real-world conditions in Europe. The US model has a maximum driving range of 800 km.

Hyundai teamed with public and private partners in the US to operate 30 units of the Class 8 trucks, with a 6×4 drive axle configuration, starting from Q2 2023. This will be the largest commercial deployment of Class 8 hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks in the US.

A consortium led by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) and Hyundai recently won US$22 million (RM93 million) in grants from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Energy Commission (CEC), and US$7 million (RM29.6 million) in additional grants from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in support of the NorCal Zero project.

The project, officially known as Zero-Emission Regional Truck Operations with Fuel Cell Electric Trucks, will see logistics service provider Glovis America be the fleet operator of the hydrogen trucks. Macquarie’s Specialized and Asset Finance business, part of its Commodities and Global Markets division, will finance the trucks through a lease to the operator.

The CTE-Hyundai consortium also plans to establish a high-capacity hydrogen refuelling station in Oakland, California that will be able to support as many as 50 trucks with an average fill of 30 kg.

Down in SoCal, Hyundai was awarded a US$500,000 (RM2.1 million) grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District to demonstrate in Southern California two Class 8 Xcient Fuel Cell trucks. Largely funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the project contributes to the attainment of clean air standards in the South Coast Air Basin by reducing emissions from diesel trucks.

Hyundai and its fleet partner plan to start operating these trucks in August. They will be used for long-haul freight operations between warehouses in the region for a 12-month period. Hyundai will also work with the market leader in hydrogen refuelling stations in California, First Element Fuel (FEF), to utilise three hydrogen stations in the 12-month pilot programme.

In 2020, Hyundai announced its plan to deliver 1,600 Xcient Fuel Cell trucks to Europe by 2025. The first 46 units were delivered to Switzerland last year, and they have cumulatively driven more than one million km in 11 months of service. During that time, the fleet has reduced CO2 emissions by an estimated 630 tonnes, compared to diesel-powered trucks, Hyundai claims.

Hyundai will leverage insights gained from these public projects to develop its zero-emission commercial fleet business in the US and establish local partnerships across the value chain, the company says. Hyundai is already in talks with multiple logistics and commercial companies interested in leveraging hydrogen tech for their freight delivery and drayage services.

Click on these links for more on Hyundai’s hydrogen fuel cell applications in car showrooms and on the race track.