Hyundai bringing hydrogen fuel cell trucks to California

Hyundai Motor Company is following through on a promise to bring hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks to North America, participating in two publicly funded projects in California.

Trucks to be used in the demonstrations are based on the Xcient fuel cell, a hydrogen-powered heavy truck unveiled last year in Switzerland.

Hyundai Xcient fuel cell electric truck
The trucks coming to California are based on the Xcient fuel cell unveiled last year in Switzerland. (Photo: Hyundai)

Thirty of the units will roll out in northern California beginning in the second quarter of 2023, and be leased to Glovis America through Macquarie’s specialized and asset finance business.

The U.S. model will offer an 800-km range between refueling, demonstrating one of the benefits that fuel-cell-electric vehicles have over their battery-electric counterparts. The fuel itself will be stored in tanks rated at 10,000 psi, and the maximum gross combination weight will come in at 82,000 lb.

Hyundai says it will be the largest commercial deployment of Class 8 fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in the U.S. A related high-capacity hydrogen refueling station in Oakland, Calif. will support as many as 50 trucks consuming an average of 30 kg of fuel per visit.

The project benefits from $22 million in grants from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Energy Commission (CEC), and $7 million in grants from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

“Public and private project partners have come together to take a big step forward in decarbonizing freight and goods movement,” said Hannon Rasool, deputy director of the California Energy Commission’s fuels and transportation division.

Hyundai Xcient fuel cell electric truck
Two more of the trucks will be tested in southern California. (Photo: Hyundai)

Another $500,000 grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District will see two of the trucks demonstrated in southern California as early as August, tapping into funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That project will run for 12 months.

Hyundai previously announced plans to delver 1,600 Xcient fuel cell trucks to Europe by 2025, and the first 46 trucks arrived in Switzerland last year. They have collectively covered more than 1 million km over 11 months of service, the company notes.

The OEM unveiled its interest in North America in late 2019, with a prototype vehicle showcased at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show.

While not yet known for selling trucks here, Hyundai has a capacity to build 300,000 Class 2-8 vehicles in markets outside the U.S.

These are not the only hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks to be tested in North America, though. The Alberta Zero Emissions Truck Electrification Collaboration will see a pair of fuel-cell-powered trucks running between Calgary and Edmonton for a demonstration that begins this October. Those trucks will be run by Bison Transport and Trimac Transportation.

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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