Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Hyundai Considers Converting Jeonju Plant into Hydrogen Vehicle Hub

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South Korean automaker Hyundai is contemplating transforming its factory in Jeonju, located in North Jeolla Province, into a hub for hydrogen vehicles. This strategic move would position the plant as a focal point for Hyundai’s hydrogen buses and trucks.

According to a report from The Korea Economic Daily, Lee Dong-seock, President and Head of Hyundai’s domestic production division, recently engaged with the company’s labor union leaders. During the meeting, Dong-seock acknowledged the declining operational rate of the Hyundai Jeonju plant.

See also: Hyundai and Plus Unveil First Self-Driving Hydrogen Fuel Cell Truck in the U.S.

Operating at approximately 40% of its annual capacity, which is 100,000 units, the Hyundai Jeonju plant produced only 39,934 vehicles in 2023. This low capacity utilization has been an ongoing issue, with Labor Today reporting in 2021 on problems such as repeated shutdowns and worker transfers at the domestic plant. The Korea Economic Daily’s report suggests that the influx of low-cost electric buses from China and European-made trucks presents a challenge for South Korea’s commercial vehicle manufacturing industry.

In the period between January and May, electric buses imported from China recorded sales of 638 units in South Korea, approximately 28% more than domestically manufactured electric buses (500 units). In 2023, Chinese companies sold 1,372 large-size e-buses in the country, capturing 50.9% of its electric bus market for the first time. Regarding trucks, models imported from Europe registered 3,037 units in sales in 2023, closing in on the sales of locally manufactured ones, which totaled 3,677 units.

See also: Hyundai Launches NorCAL ZERO Project Advancing Hydrogen-Powered Freight Transport

Established in 1995, the Hyundai Jeonju plant produces 14 different vehicle models, including trucks and buses. Among its most advanced models is the Hyundai Xcient Fuel Cell, the world’s first series-production heavy-duty hydrogen fuel cell truck. The Korea Economic Daily report indicates that the factory will commence the production of car transport trucks, refrigerated trucks, and trailer transport trucks derived from this model by the end of the year.

Hyundai also manufactures hydrogen buses at its Jeonju plant. Between late 2023 and March 2024, the annual production capacity of these vehicles increased from 500 to 3,100 units. By 2027, Hyundai plans to develop new hydrogen express buses and low-floor metropolitan shuttle buses, manufacturing them at this factory.

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