We spend 60 seconds with Woong-chul Yang, Vice Chairman at Hyundai Motor Group and Co-Chair of the Hydrogen Council


What has been the highlight of your Hydrogen Council membership so far?

Ever since I assumed the honorable role of Hydrogen Council co-chair last November, I have been thrilled to see a number of notable initiatives kick off across the globe, aimed at accelerating hydrogen’s use for the de-carbonization of the global energy system.

The International Hydrogen Energy Forum held by the National Assembly of South Korea set the tone early this year, and other forums such as Mission Innovation – a global initiative formed by multiple governments to reinvigorate and accelerate clean energy innovation – energized the discussion on innovation policies and impending tasks for the proliferation of hydrogen.

We were especially encouraged by the fact that governments from 12 countries participating in the Renewable and Clean Hydrogen Innovation Challenge have identified hydrogen as a promising energy carrier for international trade. What’s more, international interest in hydrogen production through renewable energy and water is increasing at a fast pace, while the public and private sectors work together to promote technological innovation.

The China Hydrogen Industry Development Innovation Forum held last month was another great event for us, which helped us better understand China’s hydrogen vision and policies whilst giving us a chance to effectively communicate the potential of hydrogen and investment opportunities to stakeholders. It was at this forum where we also became aware of the Chinese government’s commitment to accelerate the development of hydrogen electric vehicles and the hydrogen industry, as well as its plan to deploy fuel cell commercial vehicles, such as large buses and trucks.

I believe that such diverse efforts and active dialogues happening across all sectors and parts of the globe are a reaffirmation that the hydrogen society is just on the horizon and will become a reality.


Are there any inspiring or exciting hydrogen related projects going on outside of your company, or with your partners, that you would like to tell us about?

Strong partnerships are crucial to maximizing investment efficiency and driving success in new business opportunities.  A company cannot single-handedly survive the ‘Death Valley Curve’ that inevitably looms with the commercialization of new technologies.

While members of the Hydrogen Council collectively continue to demonstrate the potential of a Hydrogen Society to governments and public members, there have been a number of partnerships forged between global automotive OEMs in fuel cell technology in recent years.

In June, a strategic partnership was signed between Hyundai Motor and Audi which will see the two companies cross-license fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) related patents for multiple years. This partnership aims to maximize investment efficiency of FCEVs in both companies and accelerate cost reduction and technological proliferation.

Similar partnerships have been established between other OEMs, and such collaborations are expected to serve as a certain way for companies to successfully cross ‘Death Valley’ hand-in-hand.

What positive indicators for hydrogen deployment have you seen recently and what is your take on the impact they may have?

Last month, the South Korean government announced plans to invest 2.6 trillion won into hydrogen mobility over the next five years, as part of a new growth momentum. The new policy aims to improve the environment while generating innovative growth momentum, in line with the anticipated regulatory changes that will affect the automotive industry.

In detail, the government plans to provide subsidies and enhance incentive policies, with an ultimate goal to deploy 15,000 FCEVs and establish 310 hydrogen filling stations. We believe that this clearly demonstrates the government’s willingness to recognize and supply hydrogen as a future energy source.

It is evident that multiple hands-on experiences of FCEVs induced positive changes in the Korean government’s perspective on hydrogen-powered vehicles, as it is now viewing it as an opportunity to create new industries for future growth.


What in your opinion is the biggest challenge for hydrogen in the near future, and how would you like to see it being tackled?

While we have a firm belief that hydrogen is the ultimate eco-friendly source of energy, sharing that notion as well as building a social consensus to promote and popularize hydrogen is an obvious first step but a very challenging task.

In order to convince governments and the general public that building a Hydrogen Society is a task achievable in the not-too-distant future, it is imperative that we remove barriers so that average drivers can afford an FCEV and demonstrate it can compete with traditionally powered vehicles.

Additionally, technological innovations that enable a hydrogen eco-system optimized to produce, distribute and utilize renewable energy at an affordable price must pave the way. Price reduction is yet another challenge but it can be overcome if we have the right amount of supplies.


What changes have you seen within the hydrogen ecosystem and community in the past?

We witnessed many notable and positive changes happening at a fast pace, particularly in the Chinese hydrogen and FCEV industry. Internally, we had the privilege to welcome prominent industry leaders, including Wechai, Great Wall Motor, and China Energy as new members of the council.

But the biggest takeaway, above all, was that we learned about the firm determination and commitment of the Chinese government as well as the private sector to expand government-supported policies and strengthen global cooperation. I am optimistic that changes in China will make a huge difference and catalyze the global deployment of hydrogen.


Which area of hydrogen development and deployment is your company investing in currently?

Hyundai Motor is taking responsibility and putting much effort in developing and supplying FCEVs. With two mass-produced FCEV models, Hyundai has proven hydrogen-powered vehicles have become a viable next-generation vehicle technology that can compete with traditionally-powered cars in terms of safety and reliability.

Rather than focusing on short-term sales goals, Hyundai Motor is committed to continuously strengthening its technological leadership by reducing cost, miniaturizing fuel cell systems, and maximizing efficiency.

As an automotive OEM, we believe our responsibilities are not limited to the development of hydrogen electric vehicles but also include continuous investment in the hydrogen supply chain (hydrogen filling stations). The company is currently exploring various ways to contribute to enhancing the infrastructure.


Are there any recent or upcoming hydrogen related milestones in your company that you are especially proud of?

Hyundai Motor, the first automotive manufacturer to showcase the world’s first mass-produced FCEV model in the market, launched the next-generation fuel cell vehicle NEXO earlier this year, continuing its leadership in eco-friendly vehicle technology and setting the stage for a hydrogen society in future.

NEXO – the technological flagship SUV of Hyundai Motor’s eco-friendly and future-oriented technology – has an estimated driving range of 750 km according to New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) fuel efficiency and more than 600km according to Korean standards, on a single charge.

NEXO demonstrates performance potential to rival internal combustion engine vehicles with increased output and improved durability – made possible through the enhancement of its fuel cell system. Just by driving the NEXO, anyone can contribute to environmental improvement through air purification and carbon dioxide reduction.