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Business chiefs: Hydrogen can power digital innovation

Hyundai Motor vice chairman calls for large-scale commercialization of hydrogen

Hydrogen can speed up the evolution of digital technologies and is a reliable source of energy that can tackle climate change, said CEOs from global companies that gathered for an annual forum on the alternative energy on Thursday.

“Together, we can deliver concrete solutions while ensuring a sustainable future. We believe hydrogen is key to power the digital revolution,” said Benoit Potier, CEO and chairman of Air Liquide and co-chair of the Hydrogen Council.

Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Yang Woong-chul (left) stands beside NEXO, the carmaker's latest fuel cell electric vehicle powered by hydrogen. (Hyundai Motor)
Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Yang Woong-chul (left) stands beside NEXO, the carmaker's latest fuel cell electric vehicle powered by hydrogen. (Hyundai Motor)

According to research launched by the council, hydrogen technologies could power up to 1.5 million self-driving taxis, 700,000 autonomous shuttles, 8,000 vertical take-off and landing taxis, and 2.6 million delivery trucks. It could also provide up to 1 terawatt per hour of backup power in data centers.

“As a result, this digital future could grow the world’s hydrogen market to 7 million tons of annual hydrogen demand and the use of 6.4 million fuel cells by 2030,” said the council in a statement.

The company leaders were attending the Global Hydrogen Leaders Forum, held in San Francisco, the heart of tech innovation in California. Participants included Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Yang Woong-chul, who co-chairs the council, Takeshi Uchiyamada, chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., Peter Tropschuh, head of Audi’s sustainability strategy department, and executives from BMW, Bosch, China Energy, Daimler and Engie. Kim Young-doo, vice president of Korea Gas Corp. was also among those who attended.

Tech innovators face pressing energy challenges, the council said, noting that energy demand from the information and communication technology sector is expected to double by 2050.

“This implies the need for an energy carrier that can take renewable power, channel it, and then release energy when needed,” it said, quoting its new paper titled “Hydrogen meets Digital.”

Hydrogen is well-suited for powering large, heavy or vertical applications, as it has four-times higher density than mainstream technologies, it added.

While highlighting joint efforts by global companies, Hyundai Motor’s Yang urged leaders to drive large-scale commercialization of hydrogen worldwide.

“More than 50 top industry leaders are here today to show hydrogen has a role to play, and we need to act now to get it to scale and truly enable the energy transition,” he said.

“This transition needs to be sustainable environmentally, financially and socially, and hydrogen will help ensure it ticks all those boxes.”

Launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2017, the Hydrogen Council is the first global CEO initiative aimed at fostering the role of hydrogen technologies in the global energy transition. It has 33 members.

By Cho Chung-un (