Hyundai says hydrogen cars will help protect jobs South Korean carmaker teams up with Audi to collaborate on technology Hyundai says switching to hydrogen will prevent the loss of supply chain jobs that would be at risk by moving to battery-driven electric cars
Hyundai is urging manufacturers to produce hydrogen vehicles in order to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs in the supply chain that would otherwise be at risk from a shift to battery-driven electric cars.
Carmakers are striving to produce cleaner vehicles to hit stringent emissions targets that come into force in the EU in 2020, with the bulk of global efforts being poured into battery electric vehicles. Hyundai, one of the companies backing hydrogen power as an alternative to battery technology, says switching to hydrogen also prevents the destruction of component jobs that would be lost by moving to electric cars. More than 600,000 jobs in Germany alone are at risk from the switch from internal combustion engine vehicles to battery cars, according to German car industry lobby group VDA, largely because electric vehicles have significantly fewer moving parts. Hydrogen fuel cell cars, which like electric vehicles also produce zero emissions, have a far higher number of components because the working of a fuel cell engine closely resembles petrol engines. Many of the parts needed can be produced by existing suppliers to the industry.
“Hydrogen technology means people who make internal combustion engines can still have jobs,” said Sae Hoon Kim, Hyundai’s director of fuel cell projects. “We have 300 major suppliers [for the hydrogen car], and most of them are our conventional vehicle suppliers.”
UBS calculated that there are 136 moving parts inside the engine of a VW Golf, compared with 16 for an electric Chevrolet Bolt. Hyundai says about 160 parts are needed for its latest hydrogen car. The South Korean carmaker has entered a partnership with German group Audi to spread the cost of developing the technology and reach more potential buyers with the technology.
“We have to increase the market for hydrogen, or else we will not have a future,” Mr Kim said.
Hyundai has already developed two generations of hydrogen vehicle, the ix35 and new Nexo, which the group will begin selling in the UK for about £55,000 next year.
Under the agreement, Hyundai and Audi will share patents on the technology, and in future will move to joint development. Audi, which is owned by Germany’s Volkswagen, also offers a gateway into the world’s largest vehicle maker.
“The fuel cell is the most systematic form of electric driving and thus a potent asset in our technology portfolio,” said Peter Mertens, board member for technical development at Audi. “For the breakthrough of this sustainable technology, co-operation is the smart way to achieve attractive cost structures.”
Adoption of hydrogen vehicles remains small, hampered by the lack of choice of cars on the market and limited refilling infrastructure. Unlike electric vehicles, which use purpose-fitted charging points but can also be plugged into mains electricity if needed, hydrogen filling stations require expensive pressurised tanks, as well as delivery trucks, and cost about £1m to install.
However, advocates of the technology say not as many filling stations will be required, given that refilling a hydrogen car is comparable to petrol, taking only minutes, compared with electric vehicles that either charge slowly or require a large amount of power to recharge quickly. Speaking on Friday at Renault’s annual shareholders’ meeting, chief executive Carlos Ghosn said he believed the technology was more than a decade away from significant adoption.
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