Hydrogen Economy Emerging as Future Growth Engine
In January, the South Korean government unveiled its “roadmap to foster a hydrogen economy,” which includes the production and sales of 6.2 million cars (2.9 million units in domestic sales and 3.3 million in exports) and the expansion of the current 14 hydrogen charging stations to 1,200 by 2040. This indicates the government’s emphasis on the hydrogen economy and viewing hydrogen as a future growth engine.
Hydrogen cars refer to vehicles that operate on hydrogen as fuel. Such cars use the electric power generated during the process of combining hydrogen and oxygen as a power source. Compared to electric vehicles (EV), charging of hydrogen-powered vehicles (HPV) is faster, which takes less than 5 minutes, and HPV can drive more than 500km with one charge. Unlike conventional automobiles, HPV does not emit air pollutants and is also considered as an eco-friendly model to alleviate fine-dust problems as it can purify inhaled air during fuel cell operation. Hydrogen’s economic effects are unlimited as it can be used not only for cars but also as a raw material for power generation, buildings, and industries.
Carbon Fiber Technology in CNG High-Pressure Vessel
Hyosung Group is ramping up its hydrogen vehicle-related business. More importantly, the group plans to preoccupy the HPV-related market in line with the government’s roadmap to foster the hydrogen economy. As part of this plan, Hyosung Advanced Materials will invest KRW 46.8 billion to expand its carbon fiber plant in Jeonju with the aim of doubling its annual production capacity from 2,000 to 4,000 tons by 2020.
Carbon fiber is used for the production of hydrogen fuel tanks and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) high-pressure vessels, which are key components of hydrogen cars. Demand for carbon fiber is expected to increase as hydrogen fuel tanks and CNG high-pressure vessels are forecast to grow 120 times and more than four times, respectively. Therefore, the expansion of the Jeonju Plant is to keep up with increasing demand.
Carbon fiber is an essential element for future automobiles and making wire core materials lighter. Since 2015, Hyosung has supplied carbon fiber for CNG high-pressure vessels of city buses. A carbon fiber CNG high-pressure vessel has a higher tensile strength than that of a steel vessel. Carbon fiber is also safer because it can minimize the risk of explosion and is twice as lightweight. In addition, since reducing the weight of hydrogen vehicles is considered crucial, carbon fiber high-pressure vessels became a mandatory requirement for HPV.
No.1 in Domestic Hydrogen Charging Station Market
Hyosung Group’s charging station business is also gaining attention. Based on its technological prowess built over 50 years of experience in the rotor and compressor fields, the group has supplied its CNG compression system and hydrogen compression system as part of a government-led project of promoting eco-friendly vehicles since 2000. As a result, Hyosung was able to build some 200 CNG compression system units and 6 hydrogen gas compression system units. In addition, it supplied 90 out of 200 domestic CNG filling stations and 12 of 28 hydrogen charging stations in Korea. Hyosung also supplied a number of CNG filling stations to Russia, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, and Egypt. The group is also ranked first in the market share of domestic CNG charging stations. These achievements are attributable to the group’s efforts to research proactively and secure technology with the aim of pioneering the hydrogen market.
Hyosung plans to contribute to the hydrogen economy by actively utilizing these technologies. First, the group is taking part in a special purpose company (SPC) that installs and operates hydrogen charging stations, which is expected to play a crucial role in distributing hydrogen charging infrastructures in Korea. For this project, Hyosung will apply the 3-minute rapid charging system technology. The charging station to be installed at the Gwangju Branch of the Korea Automotive Technology Institute will not only enable rapid charging within 3 minutes but also be set up in a 700- bar scale, allowing the charging of five hydrogen vehicles per hour. In addition, the station will localize most of the charging system equipment, such as hydrogen gas compression packages hydrogen chargers, and the hydrogen gas cooling system, to enable prompt repair service as well as cost reduction.
The key driving force that has led global group Hyosung is the exploration and passion for the future. The group has focused its efforts on securing and developing future growth engines and looks forward to taking another big leap forward by preoccupying the HPV market.