Hydrogen fuel cell excavator from Hyundai

By Andy Brown25 October 2022

Hyundai Construction Equipment (HCE) has shown the HW155H concept wheeled excavator at Bauma 2022.

Stefan Schwill, HCE product manager told KHL that the machine could be available commercially by 2025-26. He added that the wheeled excavator had been chosen as the model to be powered by hydrogen “as it works in urban environments and low emission zones, and the 14 tonne model is a poplar model.”

The machine is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell, providing the electrical power to operate it with zero tailpipe emissions. The machine can be charged in just ten minutes.

Hyundai Motors has offered the hydrogen-powered ix35 and more recently the Nexo passenger car for more than four years and is trialling XCIENT fuel cell-powered heavy trucks in Germany.

Schwill said that the knowledge shared between the group had provided a large advantage and that for larger machines hydrogen could be a more appropriate fuel source than battery electric models.

Unlike a diesel-powered wheeled excavator, the hydrogen machine has a fuel cell mounted in the rear of the upper structure.

The fuel cell relies on a chemical reaction between the stored hydrogen and oxygen that is present in the air. The fuel cell stack generates electrical energy from this reaction, with an inverter converting this energy into usable electrical power. This is used to drive the hydraulic pump, to power the machine in the normal way.

The only emission from the fuel cell stack is water, a combination of the hydrogen and oxygen. When that hydrogen is produced using renewable energy, such as off-shore wind, this creates an low carbon powertrain. For the excavator, the hydrogen is stored on the right-hand side of the machine, opposite the operator’s cab, in high-pressure tanks.

“The development of the first excavator powered by hydrogen is very exciting, as we work towards a carbon-free world,” said Gert Peeters, product manager at Hyundai CE Europe. “Over the coming months, HCE will continue to develop and further refine this technology and thereby pursue our goal to lead the transition into a zero-carbon future.”

He added, “While great progress has already been made in the development of electric vehicle technology, there is a risk that we overlook hydrogen as a practical, immediate solution to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

“Our projections show that fuel-powered vehicles will be more cost-effective than battery-electric or diesel-powered vehicles in the future. We at Hyundai Construction Equipment are convinced that hydrogen will be at the forefront of renewable energies in the long term.”

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