By Park Chang-young
Hyundai Mobis Co., the auto parts unit of South Korean conglomerate Hyundai Motor Group, has completed a plant to mass produce parts for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to ensure a lead in the race towards emission-free vehicles.
The new factory is nestled at the company's eco-friendly auto parts complex in the central city of Chungju. Test operations will start from next month, said the company on Tuesday.
The plant built at a cost of 70 billion won ($62.2 million) commands a space of 13,000 square meters and has the capacity to produce an annual 3,000 powertrain fuel-cell complete (PFC) modules, on par with the world's top players. Production may be ramped up to tens of thousands of units depending on market demand, said the company.
Hyundai Mobis is now the only company in the industry with a wholly integrated system to produce all key parts for fuel cell car. Other players only have production units to make selective components.
"We're striving to develop proprietary technologies that can cut down the weight of the fuel cell system by 10 percent and improve power performance by 15 percent," said a Hyundai Mobis official.
The fuel cell powertrain is composed of a fuel cell stack, system module, hydrogen tanks, battery and electric motor. At the heart of the powertrain is the fuel cell stack, which generates the power needed to drive the electric motor. A core component of the fuel cell stack, the membrane electrode assembly (MEA), determines the fuel efficiency and durability of the vehicle. Hyundai Motor Group succeeded in localizing the production of MEAs, which have previously been imported from overseas manufacturers.
There are only three major competitors in the fuel cell vehicle market, with Toyota commanding a share of over 80 percent in 2016, followed by Hyundai and Honda. The market is expected to grow further as other automakers, including Mercedez-Benz, plan to release their own hydrogen cars in the coming years.