Hyundai to deliver 700 fuel cell buses to Incheon

The South Korean city of Incheon, located near the capital Seoul, plans to introduce a total of 700 fuel-cell buses by the end of 2024. A total of 200 of these H2 buses are to be put into operation this year, and the rest next year.

The South Korean Ministries of Environment and Transport, the Incheon Municipal Government, Hyundai Motor and SK E&S have agreed on this. Hyundai will supply the vehicles in the large-scale project and the energy specialist SK E&S, which belongs to the SK Group, will set up the hydrogen filling stations for the buses and provide liquid hydrogen. The ministries involved are subsidising the initiative and have promised improvements to regulations to facilitate the use of fuel-cell buses. This is according to a report of the portal Korea JoongAng Daily.

The buses are likely to be hydrogen models of the Hyundai Elec City Fuel Cell type. Hyundai’s H2 city bus has already been in use in South Korea since 2019. The model has a 180-kW fuel cell system on board (analogous to Hyundai’s H2 truck Xcient), which is composed of two 90-kW fuel cells equipped with a hydrogen diffusion layer and an electrolyte membrane. The hydrogen itself is stored in an 845-litre tank. In addition, the drive has a 78.4 kWh battery. The range is supposed to be 500 kilometres.

There are currently six hydrogen filling stations in Incheon. The goal is to build eight more this year, reports Korea JoongAng Daily. SK E&S is said to be planning a hydrogen production plant in Incheon with an annual production capacity of 30,000 tonnes, which should go into operation at the end of this year. The article does not say whether the hydrogen will be “grey” or “green”. But the fact is that in 2020, South Korea will have covered only 4.8 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable sources. The electricity mix consists of about 40 per cent coal and 30 per cent nuclear power. By 2030, renewable energies are to be expanded to 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, in addition to SK E&S itself, a subsidiary of the company is also getting involved in H2 refuelling station construction in Incheon: SK Plug Hyverse – a 51:49 joint venture between SK E&S and New York-based Plug Power – is reported to have reached an agreement with the Korean Ministry of Transport, Incheon Municipal Government, Incheon International Airport and Korea Gas Technology for an investment of 13 billion won (about 9.4 million euros) to build hydrogen refuelling infrastructure at a bus depot at the airport by 2024.

SK Plug Hyverse is in the process of building about 40 hydrogen refuelling stations in Korea, according to the above-mentioned source. Parent company SK E&S, meanwhile, says it is preparing to supply liquid hydrogen as a next step to “support the rapid transition to fuel cell buses and stimulate the hydrogen economy”.

The roll-out of H2 buses is also announced in other cities in South Korea: Another 624 H2 buses are to hit the streets of the port cities of Busan and Ulsan as well as South Gyeongsang Province by 2025. And on the South Korean island of Jeju, a hydrogen infrastructure is being built to operate a total of 1,700 fuel cell vehicles by 2030.


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