Powered by hydrogen, Hyundai’s trucks aim to conquer the Swiss Alps

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Updated 29 February 2020

Powered by hydrogen, Hyundai’s trucks aim to conquer the Swiss Alps

FRANKFURT: Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered 18-ton trucks are set to hit the roads in Switzerland next month as the South Korean automaker looks to establish a case for its zero-emissions technology in a low carbon world.

Invented nearly two centuries ago, hydrogen fuel cells first lost out to combustion engines and now trail electric batteries in the push for greener transport because they are expensive, hydrogen is hard to store, and most of it is extracted from natural gas in a process that produces carbon emissions.

But when it comes to trucks, Hyundai and its partners argue that electric batteries won’t always do the job because the bigger the payload, the bigger — and heavier — the battery, and that’s a problem for crawling up Swiss mountains.

And with more than half of Switzerland’s energy coming from hydropower, the country has the potential to extract “green” hydrogen from water with electrolysis, an energy-intensive but carbon-free process if powered by renewable electricity.

“It is not enough to produce a truck. You have to take care of the entire ecosystem, find like-minded partners and show this all makes sense for the customer,” said Mark Freymueller, chief executive of Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM).

“It is possible to do this with a holistic approach and the right mindset,” he told Reuters.

Switzerland’s green hydrogen is far more expensive than diesel now but Hyundai hopes that as governments clamp down on carbon emissions and the cost of producing the clean fuel drops, the numbers could start to add up.

McKinsey & Co. said in study in January that the cost of hydrogen made with renewable energy could drop to €2 (SR8)/kg by 2030 from €3-€4.5 now — achieving cost parity with diesel for heavy vehicles, once the relative efficiency of the power sources and the lifetime costs of a truck are factored in.

While hydrogen has long been vaunted as a potential alternative to fossil fuels, expectations that fuel cells will have a role to play as the world decarbonizes has helped push hydrogen-linked stocks to their highest in over a decade.

For now, Hyundai is relying on government tax breaks for fuel cell trucks and its own subsidises to help make them economically viable for its partners: The end users, filling stations and green hydrogen suppliers.

Hyundai’s H2 Xcient trucks have a 190 kilowatt fuel cell and seven high-pressure tanks holding nearly 35 kg of hydrogen, giving them a range of more than 400 km — far further than heavy goods vehicles powered by electric batteries on the market now.

Hyundai declined to say how much its subsidies will amount to. Globally, the company is betting heavily on hydrogen with plans to spend $6.7 billion on hydrogen technology by 2030 and to
increase its annual capacity for fuel cells to 700,000.

It is starting out with 50 H2 Xcient trucks but plans to put 1,600 on Swiss roads by 2025 and is looking to launch similar projects in at least two more European countries this year, out of Austria, Germany, the Netherlands or Norway.

In Switzerland, HHM, the leasing unit set up by Hyundai and Swiss startup H2 energy, has partnered with Hydrospider, a joint venture of H2 Energy with industrial gas maker Linde and Swiss power utility Alpiq.

Hydrospider is about to start producing hydrogen for 40-50 Hyundai trucks at a 2 megawatt (MW) electrolysis plant at Goesgen. Stefan Linder, a member of Hydrospider’s board of directors, said as more H2 trucks go into service it would have to boost capacity to 70 MW to 100 MW by 2023-2025.

In preparation for launching hydrogen trucks in Norway this year, H2 Energy has formed a partnership with Nel ASA, Greenstat and Akershus Energi to supply green hydrogen. Hydropower provides Norway with nearly all its electricity.

The Swiss H2 Mobility Association — a group of nearly 20 firms — will be the first users, including the country’s biggest retailer Migros, dairy producer Emmi, grocery chain Coop and filling station operators SOCAR and Tamoil.

End users such as Migros have committed to leasing Hyundai’s trucks on pay-per-use contracts which give them mileage, warranty, services, insurance and access to sufficient hydrogen. HHM says its contracts will ensure Hydrospider and filling stations get sensible margins from the start.

“We are not fooling ourselves, it is initially a subsidised business model,” said HHM’s Freymueller, adding that this would be the case for the introduction of any new technology.

Over 10 years, an assumed investment of 1.3 million Swiss francs (SR5 million) in a pump could be recovered if 15 trucks visited it exclusively for their annual fueling needs, HHM estimates.

Supermarket chain Migros is taking three Xcients and plans to measure their performance against a Mercedes-Benz truck powered by an electric battery, three biogas-fueled trucks from Italy’s Iveco — and diesel.

At the moment, Migros says it pays 50 million Swiss francs a year in heavy vehicle environmental duties (LSVA) levied on all vehicles over 3.5 tons using any roads in Switzerland. The Hyundai trucks will initially be exempt from LSVA.

Rainer Deutschmann, director of corporate transportation logistics at Migros, which operates 900 trucks shuttling between 22 production sites and nearly 900 shops, said he expected several technologies to play a role in decarbonization.

“We will see on each journey what the energy consumption will be depending on the geography and topology,” he said.

“With an electric battery, instead of carrying merchandise around you are carrying around the battery. You have a 200 km range, which you can use for a city, but you cannot use it for the Alps,” he said. “H2 you can use for everything.”


G20 ministers agree to keep markets open, tackle pandemic supply disruptions

Updated 31 March 2020

G20 ministers agree to keep markets open, tackle pandemic supply disruptions

  • G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus outbreak
  • The coronavirus has infected nearly 738,500 people worldwide and killed some 35,000

RIYADH/WASHINGTON: Trade ministers from the Group of 20 major economies agreed on Monday to keep their markets open and ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies, equipment and other essential goods as the world battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus outbreak, while working to ease supply disruptions caused by border closures by national governments anxious to limit transmission of the virus.
In a joint statement issued after a videoconference, the trade ministers pledged to take “immediate necessary measures” to facilitate trade, incentivize additional production of equipment and drugs, and minimize supply chain disruptions.
They agreed that all emergency measures should be “targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary,” while sticking to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and not creating “unnecessary barriers” to trade.
They also vowed to work to prevent profiteering and unjustified price increases, and keep supplies flowing on an affordable and equitable basis.
“As we fight the pandemic both individually and collectively and seek to mitigate its impacts on international trade and investment, we will continue to work together to deliver a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the ministers said.
They agreed to notify the WTO about any trade-related measures taken to keep global supply chains running and said they would convene again as necessary.
The ministers, however, stopped short of explicitly calling for an end to export bans that many countries, including G20 members France, Germany and India, have enacted on drugs and medical supplies. A key adviser to US President Donald Trump is working on new rules to expand “Buy America” mandates to the medical equipment and pharmaceutical sectors, something that dozens of business groups said could worsen shortages.
The joint statement included the phrase “consistent with national requirements” already used by G20 leaders, which experts say could provide a loophole for protectionist barriers.
Lack of protective medical gear is putting doctors and nurses at risk. Many countries rely on China, the source of the outbreak, for drug ingredients and are struggling to avoid shortages after lockdown measures prompted by the epidemic held up supplies and delayed shipments.
Supply chains are backing up as air freight capacity plunges and companies struggle to find truck drivers and shipping crews. Europe and the United States are short of tens of thousands of freight containers. Shippers struggle with crew shortages and quarantines at ports. Agriculture is also being disrupted.
The ministerial video conference was attended by representatives from the WTO, World Health Organization and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
A senior World Bank official urged G20 members to agree to refrain from imposing new export restrictions on critical medical supplies, food or other key products, and to eliminate or reduce tariffs on imports of key products.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the ministers during the meeting that the pandemic had revealed vulnerabilities in the US economy caused by over-dependence on cheap medical supplies from other countries. He did not reference the “Buy America” rule specifically, but said Washington was encouraging diversification and wanted to promote more domestic manufacturing to produce more suppliers for the United States and others.
G20 finance ministers and central bankers will also meet virtually, on Tuesday, for the second time in just over a week to continue coordinating their response, the Saudi G20 secretariat said, as worries grow about the debt crisis looming over poorer countries.
Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told counterparts that both the public and private sectors should try to avoid shutting supply networks to enable an early resumption of economic activities.
The coronavirus has infected nearly 738,500 people worldwide and killed some 35,000, and has plunged the world into a global recession, according to International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva.