This hydrogen-powered Hyundai truck is a pointer to what could power heavy transport – and long-distance cars – in the future.
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Hyundai has begun delivering the first of 10 ground-breaking, commercially available, hydrogen-powered trucks to Switzerland.

The trucks – the first in the world of their type, and a pointer to how heavy transport could make the switch to electrification – essentially use the same technology that will power the fleet of Hyundai Nexo hydrogen cars that will soon hit the roads of Canberra as part of a trial in the nation's capital.

In a fuel cell car – and truck – hydrogen is transformed into electricity to charge an onboard battery pack which in turn powers an electric motor or motors.

It means a hydrogen-powered car can refuel in a matter of minutes – just like a petrol or diesel vehicle – rather than the hours it takes for an electric car to fully recharge.

Billed as the world’s first fuel-cell heavy duty trucks, the Hyundai Xcient Fuel Cell is powered by a 190kW hydrogen system with a range of around 400km.

Korean car giant Hyundai plans to send a total of 50 trucks to Switzerland this year as part of its commitment to building a total of 1600 by 2025.

“Xcient Fuel Cell is a present-day reality, not as a mere future drawing board project," said In Cheol Lee, executive vice president and head of Hyundai's commercial vehicle division, in a media statement.

"By putting this ground-breaking vehicle on the road now, Hyundai marks a significant milestone in the history of commercial vehicles and the development of hydrogen society,” he said.

“Building a comprehensive hydrogen ecosystem, where critical transportation needs are met by vehicles like Xcient Fuel Cell, will lead to a paradigm shift that removes automobile emissions from the environmental equation.”

The Hyundai Xcient is powered by a 190kW hydrogen fuel cell system comprised of two 95kW fuel cell stacks. Seven separate hydrogen fuel tanks can hold a total of 32.09kg of hydrogen for a driving range of 400km. Refuelling takes between 8-20 minutes.

The range of 400km was developed to provide, according to Hyundai, “an optimal balance between the specific requirements from the potential commercial fleet customers and the charging infrastructure in Switzerland”.

Hyundai claims fuel cell technology is ideal for commercial applications by offering long range and short refuelling times. Hyundai also claims the twin fuel cell system is powerful enough to traverse mountainous regions of Switzerland, typically environments that are heavy on fuel consumption.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles can be thought of as mobile power stations – the hydrogen is used to power the fuel cell which creates electricity that charges an on-board battery pack which then fuels the vehicle’s electric motor. There are no emissions, with water vapour the only substance emanating from the exhaust pipe.

Hyundai Australia's senior manager for future mobility and government relations, Scott Nargar, told CarAdvice the Xcient Fuel Cell truckis unlikely to make its way Down Under any time soon.

"Not in the short term," he said, "but we are always looking at opportunities."

He added the Xcient would be well-suited to Australian conditions thanks to its fast recharging capabilities, but stressed the charging infrastructure needed to be in place to make hydrogen-powered commercial applications a viability.

Hyundai has been a pioneer in fuel-cell technology, establishing a dedicated research team as far back as 1998.

In 2019, the Hyundai Nexo (pictured above) became the first commercially available hydrogen-powered car in Australia. However the first examples are not due to be delivered to the ACT Government as part of a trial until later this year.