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Hyundai Transforms Jeonju Plant into Hydrogen Vehicle Hub

26 Jun 2024

Hyundai going all out with hydrogen

Hyundai Motor Co. is set to revolutionize its commercial vehicle production by transforming its Jeonju plant into a dedicated hub for hydrogen-powered vehicles. This strategic move positions Hyundai to lead the hydrogen vehicle segment amidst fierce competition from Chinese and European manufacturers.

Pioneering Hydrogen-Powered Vehicles

Hyundai’s Jeonju plant, located in North Jeolla Province, is set to become the epicenter for the company's hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). The plant currently produces electric buses, including the County EV, the Staria multi-purpose vehicle, and mid-size trucks. This transformation is expected to significantly boost the plant’s operating rates, which currently stand at around 40%.

Scaling Up Production

With an annual production capacity of 100,000 vehicles, the Jeonju plant produced only 39,934 units last year. However, Hyundai has ramped up its hydrogen bus production capacity to 3,100 units annually, up from 500 units the previous year. This year, the plant will begin manufacturing car transport trucks, refrigerated trucks, and fuel cell tractors based on Hyundai's Xcient hydrogen vehicle model. New hydrogen-powered express buses and low-floor metropolitan shuttle buses are also in the pipeline, set to be developed by 2027.

Competing on the Global Stage

Hyundai's bold move comes as it faces a "double whammy" of intense competition from Chinese and European commercial vehicle manufacturers. Chinese companies sold 1,372 large electric buses in Korea last year, capturing 50.9% of the domestic electric bus market. In the first five months of this year, Chinese-made electric buses outpaced Korean-made ones, with 638 units sold compared to 500 units.

In the domestic truck market, European brands like Volvo, Man, and Mercedes-Benz are giving Hyundai a run for its money, with imported trucks selling 3,037 units in 2023, close to the 3,677 units sold by Korean manufacturers.

Leading the Hydrogen Revolution

Hyundai Motor is committed to leading the global hydrogen-powered vehicle market. In 2021, Hyundai invested in H2 Mobility Deutschland GmbH & Co., a German operator of hydrogen fueling stations, to strengthen its presence in the European market. Hyundai's Xcient, the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell electric heavy-duty truck, launched in 2019, stands as a testament to the company's pioneering efforts.

FCEVs, while more expensive than battery electric vehicles (BEVs), offer significant advantages for long-haul transport due to their greater range. Hyundai’s investment in hydrogen technology is a strategic bet on the future of transportation.

The Road Ahead

Hyundai’s transformation of the Jeonju plant is a bold step towards cementing its leadership in the hydrogen vehicle sector. By leveraging its technological advancements and strategic investments, Hyundai aims to outpace its competitors and drive the future of sustainable transportation.

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