That commercial-first strategy parallels Toyota's thinking. Last month, Toyota revealed that it plans to start making hydrogen fuel cell modules for heavy-duty trucks at its plant in Georgetown, Ky., from 2023.
Neither Hyundai nor Toyota have abandoned BEVs, which remain a pillar of their carbon-neutrality plans. Toyota plans to sell 2 million BEVs and fuel cell vehicles by 2030 under its electrification plan, and battery-electrics are expected to comprise the majority of the total.
"We strongly believe both battery and fuel cell technologies and products are needed to make the transition to zero-emissions mobility," Hyundai's Chung said, noting that his company has the size, budget and expertise to handle both. "Fortunately, Hyundai Motor Group is equipped with both technologies," he said. "While we are one of the few OEMs that has a dedicated BEV platform, we are among just a few global automakers that are selling both BEVs and FCEVs."
Globally, Toyota has sold only 16,200 fuel cells vehicles since launching its Mirai hydrogen sedan in 2014. Like Hyundai, Toyota wants to go beyond automotive by producing fuel cell systems for everything from forklifts and buses to trains, ships and even moon rovers. Toyota also is developing an internal combustion engine that burns hydrogen like gasoline.
Hyundai hydrogen boss Kim said it is a positive development that both Asian giants are throwing their weight behind hydrogen, calling Toyota's hydrogen engine gambit "a good idea."
"We have to be technology-neutral," Kim said. "I think every technology using green hydrogen should be promoted. It will all help a hydrogen society."