The Hyundai XCIENT fuel cell truck has arrived in the United States as part of a trial run with public and private partners. Two of the projects are publicly funded to improve air quality in California. This is the second set of trials that the XCIENT will undergo, following the first one in Switzerland where it proved its commercial viability through over 620,000 miles of real-world driving conditions.
Hyundai will use the knowledge gained from these projects to help develop and expand its zero-emissions commercial fleet arm in the U.S. and establish local partnerships as part of its value chain. Together with public and private partners, 30 units of Class 8 Hyundai XCIENT fuel cell trucks will operate starting in the second quarter of 2023. These vehicles can travel 500 miles on a full tank and will be the largest deployment of Class 8 hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks in the U.S.
The consortium, which is led by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) and Hyundai Motor Group, recently won grants from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Energy Commission (CEC) that totaled $22 million. Another $7 million combined came from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. As part of the project, the consortium is also planning to establish a high-capacity hydrogen refueling station in Oakland, California that can support up to 50 trucks with an average of 30 kg per fill up.
Hyundai’s trucks will use a 6×4 drive axle configuration. Glovis America, a logistics service provider, will serve as the main fleet operator of these trucks. Macquarie’s Specialized and Asset Finance division, which is part of its Commodities and Global Markets arm, will finance the trucks via a lease to the operator.
“We are proud to fund this hallmark deployment of 30 hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks and improve the air quality in Northern California,” said Hannon Rasool deputy director of Fuels and Transportation Division at the California Energy Commission. “These investments will support zero-emission trucks and infrastructure development and deployment as part of the US market ecosystem. Public and private project partners have come together to take a big step forward in decarbonizing freight and goods movement, as part of CARB and CEC’s clean air initiatives.”
Two Class 8 Hyundai XCIENT fuel cell trucks will be based in Southern California as part of the 12-month pilot program. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) also awarded Hyundai Motor Group a $500,000 grant to demonstrate the trucks in the area. This is also part of the EPA-funded program to reduce emissions from diesel trucks and create cleaner air standards in the South Coast Air Basin. The two trucks will be used on long-haul freight operations within Southern California starting in August.
“We look forward to seeing this important fuel cell project from Hyundai come to life,” said Ben J. Benoit, chair of the South Coast AQMD’s governing board. “The development of long-haul zero-emission truck technology is key to reducing emissions that will provide immediate benefits to our air and our communities.”
Thanks to the XCIENT’s proven track record in Europe, Hyundai easily gained support and funding from agencies and local communities to demonstrate the truck’s capabilities as a heavy-duty commercial vehicle in the U.S. In Europe, Hyundai announced plans to deliver 1,600 XCIENT trucks by 2025 with the first 46 already handed over to Switzerland last year. The trucks traveled over 620,000 miles after only being in service for 11 months and have reduced CO2 emissions by around 630 tons versus comparable diesel-powered models.
The Hyundai XCIENTs being deployed in California have more range thanks to higher capacity hydrogen tanks. They’re rated at 700 bar or roughly 10,000 psi of pressure. The maximum gross combination weight of the Class 8 XCIENT will be 82,000 pounds or over 37 tons. Results and experience gathered from the initial demonstration will allow Hyundai to accelerate its plan to launch zero-emissions commercial trucks in the North American market. It is already in talks with several logistics and commercial companies that are interested in taking advantage of hydrogen fuel cell trucks for their operations.