Hyundai’s Bold Bet on Hydrogen

When was the last time you watched an automotive company wax poetic about diesel engine controllers for Class 8 trucks? It’s true that Hyundai has invested in hydrogen fuel cells for decades, but it has also been one of the more successful legacy automakers at navigating the electric transition. It’s odd that a company with so much momentum on its side would throw a hydrogen Hail Mary. But maybe Hyundai’s EV rollout isn’t going as planned. Enter hydrogen, a sector with a green aura about it, a useful distraction from more polluting realities.

According to the latest trends, it’s highly unlikely that you have come across an auto manufacturer glorifying the intricacies of diesel engine controllers for Class 8 trucks, or a tech conference xyloquently promoting the virtues of oxygen enrichment in blast furnaces for producing steel, or even a tutorial on how to effectively burn low-sulfur bunker fuel in trans-oceanic container ships.

It’s a rare occurrence, to say the least.

So, the question arises – why did Hyundai allocate a significant portion of its CES keynote to discussing a technology that is primarily relevant to the world of long-distance trucking, steelmaking and marine shipping?

The answer is simple – greenwashing. Admittedly, Hyundai has been investing in hydrogen fuel cells for quite some time now. However, it has also managed to successfully weather the storm of the electric transition, unlike most of its peers in the traditional auto industry. In light of this, it seems peculiar that the company would suddenly take a gamble on a hydrogen-powered Hail Mary.

Perhaps, Hyundai’s electric vehicle rollout plan is not performing as expected. It could be that the EVs are not as lucrative as they initially envisioned. Or maybe, the company is facing difficulties in procuring sufficient battery supplies. Alternatively, it’s possible that the realisation has dawned upon them that over 90% of their sales are still reliant on conventional fossil fuels. As a result, in terms of EV market share, the company is lagging significantly behind its competitors. Despite being the third-largest automaker globally, it sits at a lowly eighth spot when it comes to battery EV sales.

This is where hydrogen enters the picture, with its pristine “green” reputation – an excellent diversion from the more environmentally-damaging reality. Moreover, since substantial advancements in this sector are most likely a decade or more away, it’s challenging to hold the company accountable for its assertions.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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