The Korea Herald


[Exclusive] Doosan to develop hydrogen power pack for cars

Doosan likely to forge consortium to manufacture hydrogen buses, trucks, experts say. Competition with Hyundai Motor seems inevitable.

By Kim Byung-wook

Published : Nov. 21, 2021 - 15:20

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Doosan’s hydrogen power pack for drones (Doosan) Doosan’s hydrogen power pack for drones (Doosan)

Doosan Group said Sunday it will develop a hydrogen power pack for commercial vehicles, signaling its entry into the hydrogen bus and truck markets.

“We will develop a hydrogen power pack for land vehicles. We are also reviewing a total charging solution at bus depots that can charge both hydrogen and electric buses,” an executive at Doosan Fuel Cell, a hydrogen business unit of Doosan, told The Korea Herald while declining to be named.

A hydrogen power pack is a type of generator. It’s equivalent to an engine of an internal combustion engine vehicle. Inside a hydrogen power pack, fuel cells are installed to generate electricity and power an electric motor.

Doosan previously manufactured hydrogen power packs for drones only and this is the first time to develop one for cars.

Doosan‘s hydrogen power pack has a competitive edge in the drone market, as it is lighter and offers a shorter charging time than batteries. The commercialized product has created synergies with its sister company Doosan Mobility Innovation, which manufactures drones.

Doosan’s development of hydrogen power packs for cars follows the government’s aggressive push for the hydrogen economy.

According to its hydrogen blueprint announced in 2019, the government aims to switch public buses to hydrogen buses and adopt 2,000 units by next year. The goal is to put 40,000 hydrogen buses on the road and export 20,000 units by 2040. In the case of hydrogen trucks, the target is 30,000 units for domestic use and 90,000 units for export.

According to the official, Doosan’s ambition isn’t limited to just manufacturing components for hydrogen vehicles.

The ultimate goal is to create an entire ecosystem. The conglomerate focused on industrial equipment is reviewing to install its hydrogen fuel cell system Tri-gen at bus depots and use it as a charger for both electric and hydrogen buses.

Doosan’s Tri-gen, which looks like a giant container, can generate hydrogen, electricity and heat all at once with natural gas. It can produce up to 220 kilograms of hydrogen per day and generate between 350-450 kilowatts of electricity, which is powerful enough to quick charge Hyundai’s Ioniq5 in 10-12 minutes. As Tri-gen doesn’t require additional grid infrastructure, it is deemed as one of the cheapest charging solutions for the early stages of the hydrogen economy.

As Doosan makes a foray into the hydrogen bus and truck markets, competition with Hyundai Motor seems inevitable.

To take initiative in the hydrogen truck market, Hyundai Motor has already partnered up with major logistics firms. In September, Hyundai Glovis and CJ Logistics agreed with Hyundai Motor to purchase two units of the automaker’s hydrogen truck Xcient and test them in the field. Starting this month, Coupang will also operate one Xcient and test its feasibility.

Hyundai Motor aims to establish an annual production capacity of some 20,000 hydrogen trucks by this year and export more than 60,000 units -- 25,000 to Europe, 12,000 to North America and 27,000 to China.

Fierce competition is also expected in the domestic hydrogen bus market. Since July, Hyundai Motor began mass production of a hydrogen bus with a driving range of 450 kilometers. Also, the carmaker is preparing to mass produce an express bus model, called Universe.

But industry watchers say that Doosan has a chance, as Hyundai Motor’s presence in the commercial hydrogen vehicle market is relatively weak compared to its dominant standing in the passenger vehicle market.

“Hyundai Motor is struggling to take control of the domestic electric bus market because the company has yet to achieve economies of scale compared to Chinese electric buses. Of course, Doosan is unlikely to directly manufacture hydrogen buses or hydrogen trucks, but it can create a consortium with partners and supply its hydrogen power packs for the vehicles,” Kim Pil-soo, a professor of automotive engineering at Daelim University, said.

According to Kim, Hyundai Motor could struggle to achieve price competitiveness for its hydrogen buses and trucks, just like its situation in the electric bus market. This could open up a window for Doosan to find outside partners and supply its hydrogen power packs, just like foreign automakers and Korean battery manufacturers form strategic partnerships.

A domestically made hydrogen bus costs around 400 million won, which is 100 million won more expensive than a Chinese-made model. In the case of Seoul, of 352 electric buses the city plans to purchase this year, 117 of them are from Chinese brands.