Hyundai Plans for Hydrogen Trucks to Supply Georgia Factory

Factory Under Construction Near Port of Savannah Will Utilize Hydrogen-Powered Trucking
Hyundai sign Georgia
A banner welcomes Hyundai Motor Group to their future home at the Bryan County site in Ellabell, Ga. (Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News via AP)

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LAS VEGAS — Officials from Hyundai Motor Co. and the state of Georgia promoted plans on Jan. 8 for hydrogen-powered trucks to supply the automaker’s electric vehicle factory under construction near the Port of Savannah.

The announcement at the international CES tech show is another step in the state’s efforts toward cultivating a market for hydrogen fuel and encouraging businesses to see Georgia as a place to expand and innovate.

Hyundai, which has significant experience in hydrogen-powered trucking, is building a 3,000-acre manufacturing facility at a site along Interstate 16 in Bryan County, west of Savannah, Ga. The automaker manufactures hydrogen fuel cell big rigs, known as Xcient, and uses them to transport materials in its operations in South Korea, where the automaker is based.

Once the Bryan County plant is operational in late 2024 or early 2025, Hyundai and its suppliers will need to move shipping containers of parts through the Savannah port about 27 miles away.

Hyundai said it plans to deploy hydrogen fuel cell big rigs in logistics for the plant as a first step toward establishing the foundation of hydrogen infrastructure.


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The project in Georgia is aimed at “making the hydrogen economy a reality,” said José Muñoz, Hyundai Motor Co.’s global chief operating officer, during a news conference at CES.

Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, also spoke on stage during Hyundai’s news conference. “This is going to have widespread potential to bring jobs to Georgia,” he said.

“This is something that I think we can build out as a pilot project in Georgia, to show that green logistics can work” in the United States, Wilson added.

Hydrogen is an abundant element, but to be used as fuel, it needs to be isolated from other compounds. The environmental benefits depend on how the hydrogen is produced — about 90% of hydrogen produced today is derived from fossil fuels, while “green” hydrogen is produced using renewable energy.

Hyundai also announced Jan. 8 a wide-ranging vision for hydrogen — including producing hydrogen from organic waste, such as food, sludge and manure, and using hydrogen to fuel everything from buses to power generators to aircraft.

A large delegation of officials from Georgia traveled to Korea last month to see hydrogen trucks in use, Wilson said.

“It’s reality in Korea. They’re doing it, and it’s working,” Wilson said. Hyundai is also using hydrogen trucks in California.

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Savannah Economic Development Authority President Trip Tollison said at CES that he expects to see hydrogen trucks in use in Georgia by the end of the year, with completion of construction of the plant.

“In the beginning, it’s mostly going to be focused on the supply chain for the port and the plant itself,” Tollison said. “You’ll definitely see hydrogen trucks being used in the beginning for that activity,” likely using temporary hydrogen fueling stations.

The Georgia Department of Transportation last year issued a request for information seeking input from the private sector on how to bring a network of hydrogen fueling stations to fruition.

It’s yet to be seen how much such a network would cost through a competitive procurement process, though there are federal funds available, state officials said. Wilson said the state has “not promised any investment.”

Hopes are to eventually attract more commercial users for the hydrogen to make the business case for hydrogen logistics infrastructure.

“The state’s going to be there to help with the infrastructure piece,” Wilson said. He said multiple state agencies, such as the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Division, the State Road and Tollway Authority and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority are working with Hyundai “to make sure that we have the right policies in place because this is a dynamic and changing industry. ... We have to make sure that we are making it as smooth as possible as Hyundai is putting it in place.”

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The Hyundai announcement comes after Georgia officials last year announced they were exploring the idea of deploying a hydrogen fueling station corridor for tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles concentrated on a stretch of I-16 connecting the Port of Savannah to Hyundai Motor Group’s nearby electric vehicle plant under construction.

Hyundai Motor Group also last year signed a memorandum of understanding with Georgia Tech to work together on research and development of hydrogen-fueled engines for large trucks and electric vehicle batteries.

But Georgia faced one setback in its hydrogen dreams when it failed to win federal funds last year to establish a hub for producing hydrogen energy. Georgia lost to other projects in Appalachia, California, the Gulf Coast, the Great Plains, the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic and the Pacific Northwest for a combined $7 billion in federal funding for hydrogen hubs.

Wilson said Georgia will still be “on the cutting edge of the future of hydrogen” with the partnership between Georgia Tech and Hyundai. “Hydrogen has really unlimited potential to go across the entire automotive industry.”

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