Imagine a future where all forms of transportation and technology function seamlessly and sustainably, emitting zero carbon into the air. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, with hydrogen technology, that future is possible.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth. When used in a hydrogen fuel cell, it is a powerful, highly efficient and flexible clean energy source - emitting only electricity, heat and water.
This makes hydrogen an excellent renewable energy source for zero-emissions passenger cars, heavy-duty trucks, and buses.
Sometime soon, the H2 fuel cells pioneered by Hyundai will be used to heat our homes and offices, produce electricity, fuel aircraft and even power entire cities.
Our hydrogen technology has the power to change how we drive and how we live.
The hydrogen gas molecule (H2) is composed of two hydrogen atoms stuck together, each containing just one proton and one electron. This simple chemical structure is what makes hydrogen gas flammable and relatively easy to ignite. This is also why hydrogen gas is non-toxic, colourless, odourless, tasteless, and lighter than air.
Hydrogen is a clean fuel that, when consumed in a fuel cell, produces only water.
Hydrogen is not toxic, unlike conventional fuels. On the other hand, many conventional fuels are toxic or contain toxic substances, including powerful carcinogens. When it comes to vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen produces only water, while vehicle combustion of conventional fuels generates harmful air pollution. A hydrogen leak or spill will not contaminate the environment or threaten the health of humans or wildlife, but fossil fuels can pose significant health and ecological threats when leaked, spilled, or combusted.
Hydrogen is 14 times lighter than air and 57 times lighter than conventional fuels. This means that when released, hydrogen will typically rise and disperse rapidly, greatly reducing the risk of ignition at ground level. However, propane and petrol/diesel are heavier than air, making it more likely that they will remain at ground level, increasing the risk of fire.
Hydrogen has a lower radiant heat than conventional fossil fuels, meaning the air around the flame of hydrogen is not as hot as around a conventional fuel flame. Therefore, the risk of hydrogen secondary fires is lower.
Hydrogen has a higher oxygen requirement for explosion than fossil fuels. Hydrogen can be explosive with oxygen concentrations between 18 and 59 percent while gasoline can be explosive at oxygen concentrations between 1 and 3 percent. This means that gasoline has greater risk for explosion than hydrogen for any given environment with oxygen.
Hydrogen is an energy carrier that can be used to store, move, and deliver energy produced from other sources.
Today, hydrogen fuel can be produced through several methods. The most environmentally friendly method is Hydrogen produced via “electrolysis”. Electrolysis is the process of using renewable electricity to separate water (H20) into Hydrogen and Oxygen. The reaction takes place in a unit called an electrolyser.
The Hydrogen atom consists of 1 negatively charged electron, that orbits 1 positively charged proton.
Each fuel cell is composed of two plates or electrodes (anode (-) & cathode (+), sandwiched between these electrodes is a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) (or catalyst), also known as a Proton Exchange Membrane.
As hydrogen gas is processed at the anode side, the negatively charged Electron of the hydrogen atom is separated from the positively charged Proton of the same hydrogen atom.
The positively charged Proton passes through that semipermeable Membrane to the cathode side, while the electron is forced to travel through a circuit, its the movement of these electrons which generates electricity – recharges the HV battery and power an EV traction motor.
Back at the cathode side, the protons, electrons, and now we add oxygen (from the ambient air) to the equation, they all combine to produce water molecules/vapor and that’s our by-product of the reaction..
A single fuel cell cannot provide enough electricity to power a car, so a fuel cell stack is used. A fuel cell stack is made up of many PEM fuel cells that are stacked together, like slices in a loaf of bread. (they are not as thick as a slice of bread). The stack generates electricity that can provide electricity to recharge a high voltage battery & power an EV traction motor. One fuel cell can generate up to 1 volt of electricity, since each fuel cell stack has 440 cells, that’s a potential 440 volts per stack. As there are no moving parts, no combustion, fuel cells operate silently, no carbon emissions and with extremely high reliability.
When the Hydrogen gas tanks run low, you stop at a hydrogen station and refill it in a few minutes. Then you’re back on the road and ready to go!
• Potential to be more than two times more efficient than traditional combustion technologies
• Lower green house gas emissions during vehicle operation
• Operate quietly
• Fewer moving parts and so lower chance of malfunction
• Well-suited to a variety of applications (building power, vehicle power, etc)
• Can be used in conjunction with solar and wind energy technologies for energy storage
• Reduces dependence on petroleum imports as hydrogen can be domestically produced from various sources
• Lower emissions of particulate pollutants from vehicle exhaust
• Zero emissions
• Essentially a limitless supply of hydrogen from combination of sources (water, natural gas, etc)
• Using renewable energy such as solar or wind with electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen eliminates carbon dioxide emissions over the entire production and usage cycle, meaning no net carbon dioxide emission
What does this all really mean?
This means that hydrogen fuel cells as an energy source are more sustainable than its gasoline and fossil-fueled counterparts. An overall reduction in carbon and other harmful and unwanted emissions nation and world-wide; leading to a healthier environment and population. Additionally, the use of fuel cells for energy storage allows for the seamless transition of energy within the power grid in the event of a power station failure or a black-out situation. An overall reduction of dependence on foreign energy imports which will boost the domestic economy in the long term.
Hyundai Motor Group’s hydrogen tanks are made of a five-layer design, which consists of carbon fibre reinforced plastics, and the inner surface of the hydrogen fuel tank is made of a thin polyamide liner (nylon) that minimizes hydrogen permeation.
The NEXO features the world’s first unified tank system, which consists of three separate hydrogen tanks, operating as one, for maximising cargo space.
All hydrogen tanks are subject to an ISO standard – and that standard is literally higher than those used in the aerospace industry. To give you an idea of what that means, the final test a hydrogen tank has to survive is having a 50 calibre bullet fired at it.
Hydrogen fuel tanks require the highest level of safety and have to survive a strict regulatory certification, such as the UN’s global integrated standard, one of the harshest regulations in the world; the tanks have withstood permeability tests for gas leakage, fire-resistant tests in case of a vehicle fire, and impact tests for traffic accidents.
An FCEV generates electricity from hydrogen stored onboard the vehicle to power electric motors. BEVs use electricity stored in batteries. Fuel cells power both on- and off-road vehicles, including cars, buses, trucks, and industrial vehicles, such as forklifts and airport ground support equipment. Both fuel cells and batteries provide electricity through chemical reactions. Using stored chemical reactants, a battery needs to be recharged or replaced when the reactants are depleted. In fuel cells, the reactants (hydrogen and oxygen) are stored externally (hydrogen on board the vehicle and oxygen in the atmosphere). As long as the fuel cell has a fuel supply and an oxygen supply, a fuel cell will produce electricity.
As there are no moving parts, no combustion, fuel cells operate silently, with no carbon emissions and with extremely high reliability. Filling up with 99.999% pure hydrogen gas, they can last for thousands and thousands of operational hours.
There are three NEXO FCEV SUVs in the country, one of which has a home at Tuaropaki Trust. It runs on the hydrogen being produced at Halcyon Power Limited’s green hydrogen plant at Mōkai.
There are two Hyundai XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks in the country right now, one of which has just entered operation with NZ Post. We have three more to come as part of our initial trial program.
We are the third country in the world with this hydrogen technology following Switzerland and Korea. There are currently 47 trucks running in Switzerland which have recorded a cumulated range of 4 million km. That fleet will grow to 1,600 trucks by 2025.
Hyundai Motor Company is however a leader . They have over 20 years of Fuel Cell Research and Development and are actively working towards a Hydrogen society by 2030.
Did you know, that Hyundai introduced the world’s first mass-produced fuel-cell electric passenger vehicle, the ix35, and the second-generation fuel cell electric vehicle, the NEXO.
They are now leveraging decades of experience, world-leading fuel-cell technology, and mass-production capability to advance hydrogen in the commercial vehicle sector with the XCIENT Fuel Cell.
Hyundai is the only manufacturer to have both a hydrogen powered truck and passenger car.
Hiringa and Waitomo have plans to build several refueling points across the north island by the end of 2023. Locations are Auckland, Palmerston North, Hamilton & Tauranga. The intention is to have more than 24 stations across the country in the next four to five years.
BOC also produce and supply green hydrogen .
If we are serious about achieving our emission reduction targets we will need more than BEV.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and endlessly recyclable .
Hydrogen is an energy carrier that can be made from renewable energy sources that produces only water when used. This makes it a clean zero emission fuel and as such it can play a vital role in advancing the energy transition away from polluting fossil fuels.
When hydrogen gas is made from the electrolysis of water powered by renewable electricity, no CO2 is produced.
Hydrogen is a high efficiency, low polluting fuel that can be used for transportation and stationary applications, particularly in places where it is difficult to use electricity.
Hydrogen can be produced as a liquid or a gas and can be stored for long periods of time and transported over long distances, allowing the distribution of energy between regions and countries.
Hydrogen is no more or less safe than petrol or diesel fuels.
What is Fuel Cell technology?
Hydrogen atoms enter the fuel cell at the anode, where a chemical reaction strips them of their electrons. The hydrogen atoms are now "ionized" and carry a positive electrical charge which allows them to pass through the membrane. The negatively charged electrons provide the electrical current as they are forced to take the longer path.
Over the past 20 years, Hyundai Motor Group has devoted significant resources and talent to developing hydrogen-based technologies. As a result of these long-term efforts, our hydrogen passenger and commercial vehicles are already in use worldwide, helping to popularise hydrogen energy.
Hyundai started to develop a hydrogen fuel cell car in 1998, and Tucson FCEV was released in February 2013, opening the door to the mass production of fuel cell EVs. Then, in 2018, it released the next-generation hydrogen fuel-cell SUV, NEXO. It has also released the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen-electric truck, XCIENT Fuel Cell, and is now developing a tractor based on the XCIENT Fuel Cell that’s set for release in 2024.
NZ Post first Kiwi owner of Hyundai hydrogen-powered truck
The Hyundai XCIENT Fuel Cell truck was officially unveiled in its working livery by NZ Post at an event held at their Auckland Operations Centre and attended by Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods.
The announcement is a timely answer to the Government Emissions Reduction Plan, which included a target to cut emissions from freight transport by 35% by 2035. Heavy transport makes up 4 per cent of New Zealand’s transport fleet but is responsible for 25 per cent of all transport emissions. This truck will take over from one of its emission-heavy diesel counterparts, saving 1701 tonnes of C02 per year from being emitted into our environment and displacing approximately 100 passenger cars emissions based on typical annual mileage1.
As the third country after Korea and Switzerland to introduce a hydrogen-powered trucks programme, this is an exciting milestone and puts New Zealand at the forefront of international efforts to shift heavy vehicle transport to zero-emission formats.
Refuelling in New Zealand
The New Zealand Government backed refuelling network being constructed by Hiringa Energy has experienced some international supply chain delays due to COVID, this has impacted the shipping of critical hydrogen equipment from the UK and Europe. Whilst the construction and delivery of the equipment is being expedited daily the project has experienced a delay from the originally planned open date, the first station is now expected to come online in Q1 2024.
Common hydrogen myths debunked
Myth 1: Hydrogen gas is dangerous to store and use.
Hydrogen is no more dangerous than other flammable fuels or the batteries used in electric cars. Hydrogen has a rapid diffusivity (3.8 times faster than natural gas), which means when released, it dilutes quickly into a non-flammable concentration. With their heavier-than-air vapours, Petrol and diesel are more likely to cause a fire when confined in a tight space and create secondary fires.
Myth 2: Hydrogen is dirty
Hydrogen vehicles do not emit pollution, its only emission is water and can be produced using renewable sources like solar power.
Myth 3: Hydrogen fuel cells are too expensive
Over time, hydrogen will be more cost-effective than petrol. Given the sustainable abundance of hydrogen, it will be a cheaper fuel source than finite fossil fuels.
On the road to a hydrogen ecosystem
Welcome to the new podcast from Hyundai Motor: Are We There Yet?, which investigates the world-changing ideas coming out of the workshops, labs and secret test tracks at Hyundai.
This episode looks at how hydrogen technology is key to a carbon-free future. Check out this episode and more by clicking below.
H2 video gallery
Helpful H2 resources
Visit the Hyundai New Zealand media centre to read about the latest hydrogen developments.