Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Could Live Up To Their Promise As Commercial And Transit Fleets

Jalopnik loves a good bus, and the only thing better is a good, green bus. It seems as though Hyundai and Toyota are getting in on the love with not just any old buses, but with fuel-cell electric versions that are likely harbingers of a number of these to come.


Hyundai recently announced its hydrogen infrastructure establishment plan. It is investing more time and effort — and expense — to increase hydrogen infrastructure and to bolster the supply network in its native South Korea. Its aim is not so much to serve the public, but rather to kick-start demand for zero-emissions transit and commercial fleets. Hyundai hopes to leverage that infrastructure and supply network to make a slate of vehicles viable, such as the Elec City Bus and XCIENT Fuel Cell Truck.

Illustration for article titled Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Could Live Up To Their Promise As Commercial And Transit Fleets
Photo: Hyundai Motor Group

One of the most challenging hurdles to clear when it comes to FCEVs has been infrastructure. BEV infrastructure ramped up about a decade ago, while hydrogen infrastructure for transportation stagnated. Drivers voted for cars from the likes of Tesla, while cars like the Toyota Mirai were mostly ignored.

Now Hyundai anticipates there is a latent market for FCEVs on a large scale, and it doesn’t need car buyers to tap it. The logic is interesting, if not risky. There is no demand without infrastructure, and no infrastructure without demand. But if Hyundai succeeds, other carmakers — not just Toyota — may take notice.

Elsewhere, Toyota’s hydrogen program is showing signs of life. Ireland has committed to phasing out diesel buses for its public transit systems. The city of Dublin announced its pilot program for fuel-cell city buses, as reported by the Irish Times.

The program will put the H2.City Gold bus on the road in the next few weeks. The bus is manufactured by Caetano Bus and uses a Toyota fuel cell stack. According to the manufacturer, it’s the same electricity producer as that of the Toyota Mirai.

Illustration for article titled Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Could Live Up To Their Promise As Commercial And Transit Fleets
Image: CaetanoBus

The production H2.City Gold and upcoming Hyundai heavy vehicles will have similar ranges of about 400 kilometers, or nearly 250 miles. That doesn’t sound like much, but the advantage FCEVs have over BEVs is that refueling is much quicker, in some instances comparable to that of internal combustion vehicles.


It’s easy to imagine a fleet of these deployed in tandem, refueled using Hyundai’s infrastructure, chugging along in major metropolitan areas. The kind of technology that would make BEV public transit for long-distance travel viable seems unlikely at the moment, because the batteries needed to achieve the range a transit fleet requires are not yet available.

But imagine a city where public transportation and commercial fleets are powered by hydrogen and car owners drive electric vehicles exclusively. Oh, and don’t forget the EV motorcycles. That seems like a good rubric for sustainability.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. Periodista automotriz, Naturally Aspirated Stan.


Ivan's bloody nipple

That’s where Toyota’s strategy is wrong. Personal vehicles are the end point of development for FCEV infrastructure, not the driver for its construction. If we’re serious about reducing carbon emissions, that means all the diesel powered vehicle used in freight, shipping, construction industry etc will also have to drastically reduce emissions. With batteries unlikely to have enough energy density for the task. Fuel cells are the answer. And once infrastructure exists to service industry, then it’s time for Mirai.