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Audi & Hyundai to Team Up on Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Development

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【Summary】Hyundai Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG’s Audi unit plan to partner on vehicle development and share patent licenses to “lead industry standards” on fuel cells, Hyundai said in a statement on Wednesday.

Paul Young    Jun 20, 2018 6:47 PM PT
Audi & Hyundai to Team Up on Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Development
author: Paul Young   

As most automakers concentrate on developing battery-powered vehicles, Hyundai and Audi are teaming up to accelerate the development of hydrogen fuel-cell technology, a technology often overlooked as automakers race to introduce new battery-powered models.

Hyundai Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG's Audi unit plan to partner on vehicle development and share patent licenses to "lead industry standards" on fuel cells, Hyundai said in a statement on Wednesday. The two automakers will collaborate on a broad range of fuel-cell components.

The partnership between Hyundai and Audi, the third-biggest luxury carmaker, will help boost interest among policy makers, Hyundai's head of fuel cell research Kim Sae-hoon said in an interview. This will help drive investment in infrastructure and broaden appeal.

Fuel cell vehicles run on hydrogen stored in a compressed state in high-pressure tanks located either in the trunk or under the floor of the vehicle. Similar to where the batteries are located in an electric vehicle.

The hydrogen gas is passed through a specialized fuel cell stack that mixes the pure hydrogen with oxygen from the air to generate electric current. The electricity is then used to power one or more electric motors driving the wheels. Fuel cell vehicles have zero emissions, emitting just water from a car's exhaust.

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A hydrogen filling station in California

The technology has fallen behind electric cars powered by lithium-ion batteries as costs have dropped and more EV charging stations are being built. Advocates say fuel-cell cars have longer driving ranges and shorter fill-up times that make them worth the investment.

Audi, which has led fuel-cell development within Volkswagen, said in March it planned to unveil a model by 2020 for a limited production run.

"The fuel cell is the most systematic form of electric driving and thus a potent asset in our technology portfolio," Peter Mertens, an Audi board of management member, said in a statement.

Hyundai was one of the first automakers to mass-produce a fuel-cell powered vehicle, introducing the ix35 crossover in 2013.

The deal between Audi and Hyundai forges an alliance at a time when carmakers are under pressure to keep record investment in new technologies, including autonomous driving, under control. Audi is investing 40 billion euros ($46 billion) in electric and self-driving cars by 2025.

Currently, Japan's Toyota and Honda both offer a fuel-cell models. Honda introduced the Clarity last year, while Toyota offers the fuel-cell Mirai.

Support from policy-makers is vital because fuel-cell cars become mainstream without investment in a network of hydrogen filling stations. California has spent roughly $100 million to build hydrogen filling stations in the past several years. In Europe, the French government said this month it would spend 100 million euros on vehicle subsidies and cleaner production of the fuel by 2023.


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