TORONTO — Hydrogen-powered electric vehicles appear poised to overtake battery-powered EVs as consumers’ green car of choice, Hyundai Canada CEO Don Romano said.
Romano, speaking to Automotive News Canada, said that hydrogen EVs could ultimately prove to be more convenient to operate than battery-powered EVs. And he said Canada, with its excess of electricity that could be converted into hydrogen, can be a global leader in the technology’s deployment.
“You can’t store electricity to any great degree,” Romano said. “So, if you convert it to hydrogen, which is very easy to do, you now have an energy supply that you can use not only to fuel your car but to fuel your home and businesses and backup-generation systems.
“I see hydrogen as an untapped opportunity for us as a country and I see it as a great opportunity for customers because it’s less inconvenient than [battery] electric.”
Federal lawmakers are expected to set a zero-emission-vehicle policy later this year, while Quebec’s stringent ZEV mandate went into effect in January. What the federal government’s standards look like could go a long way toward affecting which types of green vehicles will gain momentum and, potentially, how quickly infrastructure can be put in place.
Romano anticipates hydrogen EVs winning out because charging battery EVs takes too long.
“It’s all about adapting to our customer demands and giving them value through giving them their time back, their most precious commodity,” Romano said. “Charging a car for six hours is not giving them time back. Giving them range anxiety is not giving them a comfort level that is conducive to that.”
He said that boosting investments in hydrogen technology and infrastructure can benefit consumers, who would be able to refuel in a shorter time; government, which can keep more of the electricity it produces inside the country; and automakers, which would be able to more effectively market the vehicles thanks to shorter refilling times.
“If you go to hydrogen, now you can get up to 500 kilometres, and you’re actually able to fill it up in five minutes,” Romano said. “Is that perfect? No, not yet. But it also operates off of a much, much smaller [system]. So, it’s much more efficient, and we as a country produce 80 per cent of our electricity without a carbon footprint. And we also waste a ton of electricity that we sell to the [United States] for very cheap.”
Romano said it will be crucial for any mandates or standards put in place by the federal government to also include requirements to build out the infrastructure needed to support zero-emission vehicles.
“In Quebec, they have the ZEV mandate that requires us to produce so many electric vehicles. Yet there’s no mandate for service stations that populate our country to put in systems to support that. That makes no sense to me. I’m baffled.”
Romano’s enthusiasm for hydrogen vehicles does not mean Hyundai is backing off of hybrids and battery EVs, though.
“We have to be flexible enough to accommodate newer and greater technologies, so the best thing you can do is use Hyundai as a model, and I mean this sincerely.
Put one foot into each of the areas. Charging stations? Yes. Hydrogen stations? Yes. Learn from consumers what the demand is going to be and then move into that direction. Don’t be so quick to judge what you think it’s going to be because you’re going to be wrong.”