Hydrogen is the next big thing – BMW, Honda and Hyundai are working on ‘hydrogen’ cars
February 3, 2024

Hydrogen is the next big thing – BMW, Honda and Hyundai are working on ‘hydrogen’ cars

The recent CES 2024 show held in Las Vegas was dominated by language learning models, in-car AI assistants and immersive entertainment displays that are here to complement the vehicle interiors of the future. However, when the dust settled a little, the topic of fuel cells that use hydrogen as a propellant was again in focus.

Hyundai, the global leader in the sale of hydrogen vehicles, whose booth at the fair revolved around the theme of hydrogen, emphasized its commitment to clean energy, the production of hydrogen from waste such as plastic and biomass, as well as the launch of heavy goods vehicles on hydrogen. Their senior vice president, Mark Frejmuller, at the CES exhibition emphasized the importance of hydrogen in the “heavy goods” industry, pointing out that this technology meets the requirements of large trucks, whose information will be of great importance for future passenger vehicles.

The Hyundai company has the largest share of the world market in the sale of hydrogen vehicles because it was one of the first to start investing in hydrogen technology when it launched the Nexo car model in 2018. Along with it, it also offers the XCIENT Fuel Cell truck model that can travel up to 400 kilometers with just one fueling.

However, Hyndai is not alone in this sphere. Honda, an early proponent of hydrogen fuel cell technology, also sees hydrogen as a key factor in future heavy goods transportation. President of Honda Motor Europe branch, Inoe Katsushi emphasized that fuel cell cars are the next phase of the auto industry. Kacushi also added that the infrastructure and price of hydrogen limit their wider use. Nevertheless, Honda continues to focus on research in this direction.

As we wrote earlier, hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen as a propellant in an internal combustion engine (ICE) are not the same.

Namely, fuel cells use hydrogen to produce electricity that drives the car through an electric motor. On the other hand, hydrogen from hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as a propellant in SUS engines is directly injected into the engine cylinders and further, through mechanical assemblies, drives the car. The explosion in the cylinders is caused by a mixture of hydrogen (H2) and air, and pure oxygen (O2) is obtained as a byproduct of combustion. Not counting the sun and wind, this is the exploitation of the cleanest energy.

Thus, by announcing that from 2027 the leading factory in Munich will produce exclusively electric vehicles, but maintaining flexibility for alternative fuels, the automotive giant BMW also confirmed that hydrogen as a fuel remains an important alternative. Milan Nedeljkovic, a member of the board of directors of the BMW company, emphasized the importance of maintaining flexible plants in factories, especially for hydrogen, due to its potential contribution to clean energy technology, reports TechRadar.

Executives at Honda and Hyundai have set 2040 as a tentative timeline for mass adoption of hydrogen passenger vehicles, assuming that refueling infrastructure reaches critical mass and the cost of the technology becomes affordable. This thus directs the efforts of both manufacturers to research hydrogen for heavy commercial vehicles, while not ruling out a potential future for passenger cars.

Despite the promise of next-generation solid-state battery technology in classic electric vehicles, hydrogen offers the advantage of increased range and faster refueling, which could play a key role in industry and the transportation of heavy goods. When hydrogen technology matures and the infrastructure reaches a high level of utilization, hydrogen will become another choice for consumers and car manufacturers, enabling the achievement of the goals of zero emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere.