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Hyundai’s Neptune steams into view

Hydrogen-powered Neptune lays down Hyundai’s vision for fuel-cell trucks

30 Oct 2019

LOOKING like a streamlined art-deco train from the 1930s, Hyundai’s vision for a hydrogen-powered truck has been revealed at the North American commercial vehicle show in Atlanta.


The unveiling of the shock-and-awe truck – complete with a refrigerated trailer that the South Korean company claims breaks new ground for energy efficiency – coincides with the formal announcement of plans to introduce Hyundai commercial vehicles to the United States.


Hyundai already sells commercial vehicles in 130 markets, but it has finally bitten the bullet to start the rollout of trucks and vans alongside its well-established passenger- car and SUV ranges in North America.


Called HDC-6 Neptune, the heavy prime mover concept is part of Hyundai’s 2030 Vision for fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) that it plans to roll out around the world.


The company plans to deliver the first of 1600 FCEV trucks to companies in Switzerland this year. No production date for the Neptune had been foreshadowed, but US reports suggest it could be on the roads there by 2023.


Hyundai, which offers the Nexo FCEV SUV in several markets, sees hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion as a perfect fit for heavy duty trucks covering long distances with high payloads.


Relatively quick refuelling stops – compared with full-electric vehicles – would be part of the attraction by lowering costs.


Potentially, a production version of the Neptune might go head to head with Tesla’s all-electric Semi that is committed to mass production.


Unlike the full-electric Semi, the fuel-cell Neptune requires a wide grille to cool the fuel-cell stack. This grille was made a feature of the design, stretching around the sides of the vehicle where it incorporates hidden steps to the driver’s cabin.


Hyundai Motor Group chief design officer Luc Donckerwolke said the fuel-cell powertrain gave the designers an opportunity to redefine the architecture of the truck.


“The Hyundai Commercial Vehicles design team started with a white sheet of paper focusing on the new defined functionality resetting all standards in order to project commercial vehicles in the future,” he said.


Powertrain and performance details were in short supply in the official announcement about the truck, but the company indicated it planned to a put a version into production, saying: “This future truck will add to the company’s success in commercial vehicles.”


The refrigerated trailer hooked up to the Neptune is a development of Hyundai Translead, a subsidiary of the motor company.


The Nitro ThermoTech trailer has its own power supply, meaning the cooling system can be run regardless of whether the prime mover is idling or switched off.


Hyundai claims the refrigeration system is not only more energy efficient than conventional systems but also quieter, meaning less disturbed sleep for urban residents during local deliveries.

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