Hyundai Construction Equipment is embracing hydrogen as the future solution for sustainability in the construction sector. In march, at the ConExpo-Con/Agg 2023, the company unveiled its second-generation hydrogen fuel cell-powered excavator in North America. By leveraging collaboration between Hyundai Construction Equipment, Hyundai Motors, and Hyundai Mobis, the development of this excavator was made possible. With a focus on the wheeled excavator platform, Hyundai aims to achieve mass production and distribution by 2023.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology for Clean and Emission-Free Operation
Hydrogen-powered equipment, similar to battery-powered machinery, produces zero emissions. The hydrogen fuel cell excavator, exemplified by the HW155H model, operates by utilizing a fuel cell as the source of electricity. Chris Davies from Hyundai Construction Equipment explains that hydrogen stored on board combines with oxygen in the air through a chemical reaction in the fuel cell, generating electricity. As a byproduct of this process, water is discharged intermittently but continuously during operation, posing no harm to the job site.
Operational Efficiency and Hydrogen Storage
The HW155H excavator demonstrates impressive operational capabilities. The electricity generated by the fuel cell powers an electric motor, which drives the hydraulic pump and operates the machine. The excavator incorporates high-pressure tanks for hydrogen storage, located on the right side opposite the operator’s cab. These tanks provide sufficient hydrogen to produce electricity consistently for eight hours, equivalent to a full workday. Additionally, refueling times, when the machine is empty, are comparable to diesel machines and range from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the filling station.
Overcoming Infrastructure Challenges
While Hyundai is making significant progress in hydrogen-powered technology, the infrastructure for hydrogen refueling is still developing. Davies acknowledges that the western seaboard, from Vancouver to San Diego, offers the best access to hydrogen. However, infrastructure networks and delivery methods are still being improved and require substantial investments. Hyundai Construction Equipment remains dedicated to advancing this technology and making it a priority, showcasing its commitment to sustainability and a cleaner future.
Future Outlook and Commitment to Fuel Cell Technology
Hyundai Construction Equipment’s hydrogen fuel cell system is not limited to excavators alone. The company envisions broader applications, including forklifts and medium to large excavators, which can be adapted to utilize this technology. The third-generation prototype wheeled excavator with a hydrogen fuel cell system is expected to undergo real-world application testing soon, with a production-ready model anticipated within five years. Hyundai is confident that, in the long run, fuel cell vehicles will prove more cost-effective than battery-electric and diesel-powered alternatives.
Hyundai Construction Equipment’s second-generation hydrogen fuel cell-powered excavator represents a significant step towards sustainable construction practices. By harnessing the power of hydrogen, this excavator offers emission-free operation, efficient performance, and minimal environmental impact. Despite the ongoing challenges related to infrastructure development, Hyundai remains committed to advancing fuel cell technology, demonstrating its dedication to sustainability and a greener future for the construction industry.