Hyundai in Frazzle Over Future of Eco Cars

      June 28, 2016 10:33

      Hyundai is torn between what type of environmentally friendly car to bet on as its next growth engine.

      The choices are electric or hydrogen-electric cars. The company was at one stage at the forefront of global hydrogen-electric car development and set to start commercial production. But then it shifted its focus to EVs.

      Hydrogen-electric cars are powered by electricity produced when hydrogen reacts with oxygen in the air. They emit only water and even absorb fine dust in the air.

      In 2013, Hyundai became the first automaker in the world to roll out a mass-produced car powered by hydrogen fuel cells. But a lack of charging stations and the W80 million price tag stunted sales (US$1=W1,181). Cumulative sales amounted to just a few hundred globally.

      But the cheaper EVs that are much easier to recharge have surged in popularity, especially since the diesel emission scandal surrounding Volkswagen last year. Tesla has sold more than 320,000 units of the new cheaper Model 3 EV in just a week.

      Hyundai executives were shocked and promised to roll out an EV that can travel more than 320 km on a single charge, as well as developing 28 green car models by 2020 to grab the second-largest share of that market worldwide.

      Japanese automakers remain focused on hydrogen-electric cars. In late 2014, Toyota rolled out the Mirai for commercial production and has already raced ahead of Hyundai in sales. Honda recently introduced the Clarity, and Nissan plans to follow suit next year.

      Market watchers say Hyundai could end up losing both races unless it can figure out where its priorities lie.

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