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Hyundai Xcient fuel cell prime mover to hit US roads

Korean truck-maker taps into California clean air initiative


Hyundai Motor Company plans to deploy its latest hydrogen fuel-cell electric heavy-duty trucks in California in two publicly funded projects.

The demo trucks are based on Xcient Fuel Cell, which Hyndai spruiks as the world’s first mass-produced, heavy-duty truck powered by hydrogen.

Debuting last year in Switzerland, Xcient Fuel Cell has proven its commercial viability through more than one million kilometres of driving in real-world conditions.

Hyundai puts the US model’s maximum driving range at 800km.

The company will look to 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.

Hyundai teamed with public and private partners in the US to operate 30 units of Xcient Fuel Cell trucks, starting from the second quarter of 2023. This will be the largest commercial deployment of Class 8 hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks in the US, it added.

A consortium led by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) and Hyundai Motor recently won $22 million in grants from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) and US$7 million (A$9.5 million) in additional grants from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in support of this project.


Hyundai’s NorCAL ZERO project, also known as Zero-Emission Regional Truck Operations with Fuel Cell Electric Trucks, will deploy 30 units of Class 8 Xcient Fuel Cell, with a 6×4 drive axle configuration, to northern California by the second quarter of 2023.

Logistics firm Glovis America will be the fleet operator of these trucks. Macquarie’s Specialised and Asset Finance business, part of its Commodities and Global Markets division, will finance the trucks through a lease to the operator.

“We are proud to fund this hallmark deployment of 30 hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks and improve the air quality in Northern California,” CEC deputy director of fuels and transportation division Hannon Rasool said.

“These investments will support zero-emission trucks and infrastructure development and deployment as part of the US market ecosystem. Public and private project partners have come together to take a big step forward in decarbonising freight and goods movement, as part of CARB and CEC’s clean air initiatives.”

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

Hyundai Motor was also awarded a  US$500,000 (A$677,000) grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) to demonstrate in Southern California two Class 8 Xcient Fuel Cell heavy-duty trucks.

Read about Hyundai’s recent fuel-cell milestone in Europe, here

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 Motor and its fleet partner plan to begin operating these trucks in August. They will be used for long-haul freight operations between warehouses in southern California over 12 months.

Hyundai will also work with the market leader in hydrogen refueling stations in California, First Element Fuel (FEF), to utilise three hydrogen refueling stations in the region to refuel the trucks.

“We look forward to seeing this important fuel cell project from Hyundai come to life,” South Coast AQMD’s governing board chair Ben J Benoit said.

“The development of long-haul zero-emission truck technology is key to reducing emissions that will provide immediate benefits to our air and our communities.”

Hyundai observed that the California trucks’ range will be due to the hydrogen being stored in greater quantity on the vehicle in tanks rated at 700 bar, or about 10,000 psi.

The maximum gross combination weight of will be more than 37 tonnes.

Hyundai said it is already in talks with multiple US logistics and commercial companies that are interested in leveraging hydrogen technology for their services.


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