Demand for hydrogen is gaining traction as an alternative to batteries to achieve zero-emission mobility. And Hyundai Doosan Infracore, a unit of HD Hyundai, is gearing up to produce hydrogen internal-combustion engines for construction and commercial vehicles by 2025.
Seeing applications for the engines as a gradual replacement for diesel engines, Cummins is also testing a hydrogen ICE engine and is expanding its overall investments in hydrogen energy and components, and carmakers including BMW are testing a fleet of SUVs powered by hydrogen. Nikola, Daimler, Volvo and Toyota all have plans and big investments to build an increasing number of heavy-duty hydrogen vehicles.
Hyundai Doosan, though, already sees demand to scale up. Until now, and indeed for the past few decades, engine, truck and auto makers have only been tinkering with hydrogen. The applications have been extremely limited because the hydrogen refueling infrastructure has been scant, and most of the hydrogen that has been reliably produced has come from fossil fuels – so-called “grey hydrogen.”
But changing priorities in Europe, parts of Asia and the U.S. will make hydrogen, especially sustainably produced hydrogen, more readily available. Indeed, truck and construction-vehicle makers are being pressured to replace diesel by 2040 at the latest. To that end, there are an array of federal subsidies and incentives available to companies if they make their manufacturing investments in the U.S.
HDI’s hydrogen 11.0L ICE engine can produce 300 kW (402 HP) and 1,254 lb.-ft. (1,700 Nm) of torque at 2,000 rpm. Fulfilling Tier 5/Stage 5/Euro7 regulations, the engine’s emissions satisfy requirements by being 90% lower than the current level to meet Zero CO2 (below 1g/kwh) and Zero Impact Emission standards.
The engines are extremely suitable for road-going semi-trucks as well as construction equipment. They refill in one minute, and have a range of 310 miles (500 km). The engines also are 25%-30% more economical than battery packs or hydrogen fuel cells with maintenance costs factored in.
HDI will unveil its prototype hydrogen-powered ICE power unit this year, with plans for testing in 2024 and full-scale production in 2025, the company says.
“Hydrogen internal-combustion engines will be used in mid- to large-sized commercial vehicles such as trucks, buses and construction equipment and mid- tolarge-sized power generators,” says Kim Joong-soo, head of HDI’s Engine Department.
In Europe, the European Union is supporting the European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) initiative, a group of 31 energy infrastructure entities working together to build out the hydrogen infrastructure there.
In the U.S., the Biden Admin. signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law last August, which contains big incentives to build out hydrogen hubs across the U.S. to support a shift away from diesel to hydrogen over the next 10-15 years.
Vehicle makers and suppliers alike are making hydrogen investments off the changed posture by governments.
German hydrogen firm Thyssenkrupp Nucera has seen customer interest soar in the U.S. as a result of the IRA and is looking at options and potential to create U.S. production capacity of hydrogen electrolyzers with Italy's De Nora.
Hyundai is selling the hydrogen-fuel-cell Nexo in limited markets, but the CUV can scale up as infrastructure matures. Honda has been selling the Clarity fuel-cell vehicle for a decade, and is now moving on to produce a fuel-cell version of the CR-V CUV with General Motors. The two companies have co-developed the new fuel-cell system and say it will cost a third as much as the fuel-cell stack in the Clarity while also being more durable.
The key to the business model for hydrogen is allocating capital at the right cadence with demand and the cycle of transition.