In the EV Age, Hyundai Still Has High Hopes for Hydrogen Cars
Bloomberg Businessweek|December 06, 2021
The South Korean automaker sees fuel-cell technology as key to decarbonizing global transportation
Heejin Kim and Heesu Lee, with Hongcheol Kim and AliIzadi

Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung has has made a number of bold moves since he took the reins late last year. He’s put more money into electric vehicles and is taking the company deeper into the world of robotics. But another important part of his effort to transform the company from conventional carmaker to mobility giant involves embracing hydrogen-based technology. On that front, the jury’s still out.

The experience of Song Young-jin shows just how tough it will be for Hyundai to succeed in a world increasingly embracing electric-battery-powered motors. In March 2020, the 38-year-old sales manager in Euiwang city bought a Hyundai Nexo, whose hydrogen-fuel-cell engine emits only water vapor, . Wooed by Hyundai’s advertising, he decided a hydrogen car would be good for long commutes and better for the environment.

By August though, fed up with having to drive 50 kilometers (40 miles) every week to the nearest hydrogen refueling station, he was looking to sell. In a double blow, Song watched in dismay as the value of a second-hand Nexo crashed on one used-car site by about $1,000 a month. “I liked the hydrogen car itself—it’s quiet, and charging takes just 5 minutes, faster than an electric car,” Song says. “But refueling stations are lacking, and the maintenance costs [for hydrogen tanks and other parts] are huge, which is probably why they’re so cheap in the used-car market. Next time, I’ll buy electric.”

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