Hyundai has announced  that  it will release more than 30 of its hydrogen fuel-cell electric heavy-duty trucks on to California roads as part of two publicly funded demonstration projects, which the Korean company says it will be the largest deployment of heavy duty hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks in America so far.

The demo trucks will be based on Hyundai’s heavy duty Xcient Fuel Cell truck, which the company claims is the world’s first mass-produced, heavy-duty truck powered by hydrogen. They are scheduled to be deployed starting in the second quarter of 2023.

Hyundai debuted the Xcient Fuel Cell truck in Switzerland  last year and since then they have racked up a million kilometres of driving in real-world conditions, according to the company and the U.S. model  will provides a maximum driving range of around 800 km.

Hyundai says it will use insights gained from these public projects to develop its zero-emission commercial fleet business in the U.S.

Thirty fuel-cell trucks will be deployed in Northern California in the NorCAL ZERO project (Zero-Emission Regional Truck Operations with Fuel Cell Electric Trucks).

A consortium led by the Centre for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) and Hyundai Motor recently won $US22 million in grants from the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission and $US 7 million in additional grants from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in support of this project.

CTE began developing the NorCAL ZERO project more than two years ago with the idea of collaborating with the East Bay Municipal Utility District to site a hydrogen fueling station adjacent to the Port of Oakland to fuel heavy duty Class 8 FCETs.

Glovis America, a logistics service provider, will be the fleet operator of these trucks while Australia’s Macquarie will finance the trucks through a lease to the operator via its Specialised and Asset Finance business, which is part of Macquarie’s Commodities and Global Markets division.

The new FCETs will provide Glovis with a total cost of ownership over six years that it is claimed will be nearly the equivalent to the ownership cost of Glovis’ diesel trucks with further cost savings thereafter, according to a news release from CTE.

With support from the City of Oakland and the Port of Oakland, these trucks will service the entire northern California region.

The consortium also plans to establish a high-capacity hydrogen refueling station in Oakland, California, with hydrogen fuel provided by French industrial gas giant, Air Liquide. The hydrogen station will support up to 50 trucks and back-to-back fueling.

Hyundai Motor was also awarded a $US500,000 grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District to demonstrate two Class 8 Xcient Fuel Cell heavy-duty trucks in Southern California. Largely funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the project contributes to the attainment of clean air standards in the South Coast Air Basin by reducing emissions from diesel trucks.

Hyundai and its fleet partner plan to begin operating these trucks next month. They will be used for long-haul freight operations between warehouses in southern California for a 12-month period.

Hyundai will also work with First Element Fuel to use three hydrogen refueling stations in the region to refuel the trucks.

In 2020, Hyundai announced its plan to deliver 1,600 Xcient Fuel Cell trucks to Europe by 2025. The first 46 units were delivered to Switzerland last year.

The trucks deployed in California will have a longer driving range than their European counterparts, because the hydrogen will be stored in greater quantity on the vehicle in tanks rated at 700 bar, or about 10,000 psi, of pressure..

The maximum gross combination weight will be about 38 tonnes.

Based on the experience gathered from the initial demonstrations, Hyundai says it will accelerate its effort to officially launch its zero emission commercial trucks in North America. Hyundai said it is already in talks with multiple logistics and commercial companies that are interested in leveraging hydrogen technology for their freight delivery and drayage services in the U.S.