Hyundai Motor Group signed an agreement with Georgia Tech on Tuesday to collaborate on research and development of hydrogen-fueled engines for large trucks and electric vehicle batteries, both critical steps in the Korean automaker’s plans to be a leader in alternative fuels.
The agreement, called a memorandum of understanding, formalizes Hyundai and Georgia Tech’s partnership on EV and hydrogen research and establishes workforce training and curricula for Hyundai’s EV and battery factory near the Georgia coast and a battery plant in Bartow County.
The company’s $7.6 billion EV and battery factory under construction near Savannah, which it calls the Metaplant, could help pave the way for the state’s first network of hydrogen-powered tractor-trailers and commercial vehicles. The technology, while novel in the U.S., is used at other Hyundai factories and could put Georgia Tech — and the Peach State — on the cutting-edge of transforming large truck travel and logistics.
“We believe the future of mobility is going to be led by hydrogen,” José Muñoz, Hyundai’s North American chief executive, told a crowd of Georgia Tech students and faculty Tuesday. “We would like Georgia Tech to be our exclusive partner to develop the fuel-cell EVs for the future.”
Hyundai’s focus on hydrogen helped spur efforts by state leaders to explore how a network of fueling stations could be implemented between the Port of Savannah and the Metaplant site. In early August, the Georgia Department of Transportation issued a request for information to seek corporate input, which Munoz said will work in lockstep with the research Hyundai and Georgia Tech will conduct. He added that the partnership will explore everything from hydrogen sourcing to fuel-cell improvements.
Hyundai manufactures hydrogen fuel cell big rigs, known as XCIENT, and uses them to transport materials in its operations in South Korea. Hydrogen has been hyped for years as an energy source that could help trucking and other hard-to-decarbonize parts of the global economy wean off fossil fuels. While it is the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen rarely exists on its own on Earth.
To be used as a fuel, it needs to be isolated from other compounds that contain it. While trucks powered by hydrogen produce far fewer tailpipe emissions, reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, the environmental benefits depend on how the hydrogen is produced.
Tim Lieuwen, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute, said last month that the interest in hydrogen helps “fill out the portfolio” of the state’s clean energy profile.
“The idea of having it available to fleets or at a port, I think that’s very feasible and something that can happen very quickly,” Lieuwen said.
Munoz said the partnership with Georgia Tech will also help connect the Korean conglomerate with young engineers and potential workers — and Hyundai is going to need thousands in the coming years.
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