The Korean manufacturer’s target is to start mass distribution of hydrogen fuel excavators in 2023.
Hyundai Construction Equipment (HCE) is working on the project with Hyundai Motor Group and Hyundai Mobis at the Mabuk Research Center in Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do. Together, the three companies are looking to develop hydrogen-powered forklifts and medium/large-capacity hydrogen-powered excavators, over the next few years.
The plan is that Hyundai Motors and Hyundai Mobis will design and manufacture hydrogen fuel cell systems, including power packs, while Hyundai Construction Equipment will design, manufacture, and evaluate the performance of excavators and forklifts. The target date for mass production and distribution has been set to 2023.
Unlike conventional diesel powered equipment, hydrogen-based electric construction equipment uses electricity produced through the chemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen as its power source, meaning no emissions of toxic gases into the air.
Furthermore, compared to lithium batteries, which have been marred by structural issues limiting various attempts to increase battery capacity, hydrogen fuel cells are much easier to expand, making them a much more logical choice for large forklifts or excavators.
Hwang Jong-hyun, head of R&D for Hyundai Material Handling at HCE, said, “With this latest agreement, we’ve prepared a foundation upon which we can secure core technology in hydrogen-powered construction equipment ahead of our competitors. Hyundai Construction Equipment will do its very best to meet the challenges that lie ahead as countries around the world attempt to establish global standards in terms of certifying the performance of equipment and legislating relevant laws for the commercialisation of hydrogen-powered construction equipment, and play a leading role in the market moving forward.”
Meanwhile, Hyundai Construction Equipment has continued to focus on developing eco-friendly construction machinery in recent years. It mass-produced the first plug-in cable electric excavator in 2010, and in 2018 developed a 3.5-tonne electric excavator powered by Cummins’ BM4.4E flexible battery modules (4.4 kWh each).
In September 2019 Hyundai Motor Company and Cummins signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop and commercialise electric and fuel cell powertrains combining Hyundai fuel cell systems and Cummins’ electric powertrain, battery and control technologies. The initial development of this agreement is focused on the North American commercial vehicle market, including working with North American OEMs on the integration of these systems into their vehicles.