TOKYO — Just as critics were wondering about the viability of General Motors' fuel cell truck partnership with electric heavy-truck startup Nikola, two Asian competitors jumped headlong into the segment.
This month, Hyundai and Toyota each unveiled plans to ramp up development and commercialization of hydrogen-fueled commercial vehicles to be launched from North America to Europe to Asia.
The push into heavy trucking is an uncertain gambit on a nascent technology for all parties. But it could help Hyundai and Toyota achieve scale on the costly fuel cell components and infrastructure necessary for the technology. That, in turn, could speed their rollout of passenger vehicles.
That aggressive foray contrasts with the marketplace murmurings GM heard in September upon announcing a partnership with Nikola Corp. Shortly after word of the GM deal emerged, Nikola founder and CEO Trevor Milton voluntarily stepped down amid public controversy over his optimistic claims about the truck technology.
But Hyundai Motor Co. has stepped up its campaign with deliveries of its new Xcient Fuel Cell, a cabover truck with maximum gross vehicle weight of 19 tons, to customers in Switzerland. Hyundai calls the Xcient the world's first mass-produced fuel cell electric heavy-duty truck.