South Korea’s largest automaker Hyundai Motor and its locomotive arm Hyundai Rotem are slated to develop a hydrogen-powered train by next year, which will be the first of its kind in the nation.
On Monday, Hyundai Rotem said the two companies had agreed to cooperate on developing a train powered by hydrogen. Hyundai Motor plans to deploy hydrogen fuel cell stacks on trains developed and manufactured by Rotem, and to build the system interface between vehicles of the train together.
They plan to develop a hydrogen-powered train that can travel up to 200km per single charge at a maximum speed of 70km/h. The production of the prototype will be completed by next year.
The announcement of the joint project comes after President Moon Jae-in met with Hyundai Motor Group’s de facto leader Chung Eui-sun in Ulsan city, home to the firm’s automobile industries, in January.
There, Moon reiterated the government’s strong willingness to make the nation the global number one in the hydrogen car and fuel cell market by 2030.
A hydrogen-powered train, which works by converting hydrogen into electricity, is eco-friendly as it does not emit air pollutants. It also saves on costs without requiring power infrastructure and maintenance.
Hyundai Motor is a leader in hydrogen vehicles. Its latest fuel cell electric vehicle, Nexo, can travel 609km on a single charge, the longest range in the world for a green car, at a speed of 180km/h. It has also launched hydrogen buses, which travel 440km on a single charge at a speed of 103km/h.
Hyundai Rotem plans to further develop hydrogen-powered trams and locomotives in the future in cooperation with Hyundai Motor.
Separately, a state-run project to develop a hydrogen-powered train is ongoing in Korea.
The state-run Korea Railroad Research Institute started a project to build the train in April last year with an investment of 22 billion won ($18 million) in cooperation with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.
By December 2022, the Korea Railroad Research Institute aims to develop the train that can travel more than 600km on a single charge at a speed of more than 110km, together with local train builder Woojin Industrial Systems.
Despite ongoing efforts in both the private and public sectors, challenges remain.
“The reality is that there is no precedent for the development and operation of hydrogen-powered trains. There are still no technological standards, systems, laws and experience in maintenance and engineering,” said Chung Chung-rae, chief of Korea Railroad Corp’s technology division.
A national strategy to boost the industry is necessary, he added.
Globally, many nations, including Japan, China, Europe and the US, are accelerating efforts to develop technologies and commercialise hydrogen-powered trains.
In 2015, China launched a hydrogen-powered tram, the first of its kind in the world. Last year, French rail transport company Alstom developed a hydrogen-powered train for the first time in the world. It is currently in operation in Germany.
According to a report released by consulting firm McKinsey & Co in 2017, hydrogen energy will create added value of around $2.5 trillion and add new 30 million jobs by 2050. THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK