Hyundai was an early pioneer exploring the use of fuel-cell technology and now, the automaker announced today, it is launching a dedicated hydrogen brand, HTWO.
The new unit expects to bring out more products like the Nexo, Hyundai’s latest fuel-cell vehicle. But it’s also going to take the technology into new arenas, including boats, trains and trucks, Hyundai already showing off its HDC-6 Neptune fuel-cell semi back in October.
“Not only will the next-generation fuel cell system be available for many different mobility products and services, it will deliver enhanced performance and durability at an affordable price in a lighter architecture with enhanced energy density,” the Hyundai Motor Group said in a statement.
Fuel-cell “stacks” combine the lightweight gas with oxygen from the atmosphere to create a stream of current, the only exhaust being pure water vapor. The technology was invented in the 1850s but only saw serious application providing power for the Apollo moon mission capsules. Automakers began tinkering with hydrogen power in the 1970s but began commercialization barely a decade ago.
Currently, three automakers offer fuel-cell vehicles, or FCVs, including Toyota which this week launched the second-generation Mirai model. Honda offers a version of its Clarity line. And Hyundai is on its third retail hydrogen car, the Nexo.
It has promised to bring other passenger cars to market but also indicated its interest in finding other applications for hydrogen technology. That now will be done through the new HTWO brand, its name a play on the form of the gas used for fuel-cells, a two-atom molecule.
The “initial focus (will be) on major hub regions – Korea, the United States, Europe and China,” Hyundai said in a Thursday news release.
Hyundai isn’t alone in seeing opportunities for hydrogen technology. Honda and General Motors have a joint venture that will soon begin producing fuel-cell stacks in the U.S. The Japanese automaker plans to use the hardware in future vehicles. While it was an early pioneer, General Motors has been reluctant to take the concept into a vehicle of its own and had been focusing on stationary applications, such as providing back-up power for cellphone towers.
Earlier this month, however, GM confirmed plans to provide fuel-cell stacks to Nikola, for use in the new heavy-duty semis it hope to begin producing in 2022.
Toyota, which will increase the range of its new Mirai by a third, also has a joint venture going with truck-maker Hino. They will produce their own hydrogen-powered semis, initially for use at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Proponents point to the relatively long range FCVs and trucks can offer. The Nikola One semi, for example, will yield over 1,000 miles on a tank. Meanwhile, passenger FCVs will be able to refill in about the same time it takes to refuel a gasoline-powered vehicle.
The problem is where to find the gas. There are barely 100 public hydrogen service stations in the U.S., almost all in California, though there are efforts in that and several other states – as well as in Japan, Korea, Germany and other countries – to rapidly expand availability. Nikola has told customers it will set up its own distribution network along major trucking routes.
For its part, Hyundai noted that it is working up new passenger car applications but it did not lay out a specific timetable for getting other hydrogen-powered products to market.
HTWO is just the latest new brand Hyundai has set up. It launched the new Ioniq earlier this year focused on battery-electric vehicles. It then followed with a unit building “ultimate mobility vehicles,” including one that could use leg-like structures to walk across rough terrain. And, in October, it said it would set up yet another unit to focus on flying taxis.