Hyundai has announced at the IAA Show in Hanover that it will build 1,000 commercial fuel cell electric trucks to be operated in Switzerland beginning next year.

Hyundai says it will work with H2 Energy,  a Swiss hydrogen company, to build an infrastructure that will support hydrogen refuelling stations across Switzerland.

The fuel cell truck has been developed from the Hyundai XCient truck currently in use throughout Asia. It is equipped with up to eight hydrogen storage tanks providing energy to two parallel fuel cell stacks on board.

“Especially for heavy-duty trucks, we think that fuel cell is the perfect fit,” said Mark Freymueller, head of commercial vehicle new business projects for Hyundai.

The system produces 190 kilowatts of power, and an electric motor makes the equivalent of 465 horsepower and 3389 Nm of torque. The truck is capable of up to 400 kilometres  range. Its hydrogen tanks can be refilled in seven minutes.

Hyundai will deliver the first trucks by the end of 2019 and the order of 1,000 trucks will be completed by 2023.

Hydrogen fuel cell trucks are gaining traction. In the U.S.,  where Toyota Motor unveiled a new version of its Project Portal prototype in August to test at ports in Southern California.

Similarly start up Nikola Motor Co., is holding 9000 non-binding orders for its hydrogen fuel cell truck, including 800 for brewing giant Anheuser-Busch.

Hyundai intends to expand its hydrogen fuel cell project beyond Swiss borders.

“With a successful start in Switzerland we believe we can expand our market presence to other European countries as well,” Freymueller said.

The truck will be available in 4×2 or 6×2 configurations and it will also mark the introduction of Hyundai to the heavy-duty commercial market in Europe.

Switzerland was chosen for the program primarily because the small nation features challenging terrain with steep elevation. “If it works in the Alps it will also work in the Netherlands,” said Rolf Huber, founder and chairman of H2 Energy.

Secondly the country levies steep road taxes on commercial vehicles to reduce emissions and prevents trucks from crossing through the country as they traverse Europe. Depending on weight and distance driven the annual tax can cost up to $AUD36,000 ($US50,000) per vehicle.However electric trucks are exempt from the tax.

The potential savings from the tax exemption alone contributes to a total cost of ownership that Huber expects will be equivalent to operating a conventionally powered truck.

Hyundai and H2 Energy will build hydrogen stations across Switzerland that will fuel both commercial vehicles and passenger cars. Huber estimates that about 50 stations will be built to support the 1,000 trucks.

Maintenance or repairs to the truck’s hydrogen fuel cell components will be handled through a partnership with Swiss laboratories and research centres, Huber said.

Hyundai says it is developing a hydrogen fuel cell truck for the medium-duty market as well.