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Hyundai's hydrogen boss predicts sales growth will continue

Autocar logo Autocar 17/09/2019 Jim Holder
a car parked on the side of a road: Hyundai's hydrogen boss predicts sales growth will continue © Autocar Hyundai's hydrogen boss predicts sales growth will continue

Hyundai Nexo sales are being held back by limited production capacity, but still growing exponentially according to the firm’s hydrogen fuel cell business head Dr Sae-Hoon Kim.

The Nexo, the firm’s second-generation production fuel cell passenger car, was launched last year, with plans to sell around 1500 cars in 2019. However, in Korea alone 5500 cars have been ordered, meaning supply has been cut off for potential US and European buyers.

Hyundai Nexo © Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock Hyundai Nexo

“We have to do what makes most business sense, and with good subsidies available in Korea that could be cut off at any time the decision was made to fulfill those orders,” said Kim. “We are doing our best to meet demand but it keeps on growing.”

As a result Hyundai has invested in upping its production capacity of fuel cell vehicles to 40,000 per year, on a par with Toyota’s current projections. While these figures remain tiny in global car production terms, and even compared to battery-electric production numbers, Kim says that it brings production ever-closer to a point that it is commercially viable.

Hyundai Nexo © Martial Trezzini/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Hyundai Nexo

“At around 200,000 units a year you get the scale to buy the materials you need at a cost that could put a hydrogen car on a cost par with today’s battery-electric vehicles,” he said. “At the current rate of demand I can see that happening within five years.”

Kim also highlighted Hyundai’s recent work in developing fuel cell technology for commercial vehicles as a priority for advancing the uptake of hydrogen, saying: “The key is that you need 5-10 times more durability than for a passenger car, around one million kilometres,” he said.

Hyundai Nexo © William Volcov/Shutterstock Hyundai Nexo

“We can see today how we get to 500,000km in two to three years, and from there it is possible to take the next steps with the stack design I believe. These improvements don’t necessarily add cost - if you improve technology, sometimes it can reduce costs.”

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