The government, businesses, energy companies … everyone needs to be involved when it comes to the future of emission-free driving.

Peggy and Maik Zeigler, vice president of commercial vehicles of the R&D Strategy Group of Hyundai, talk about the Hyundai Neptune, a concept truck that aims to reduce emissions by using hydrogen fuel cells. They discuss the differences in design to the average truck and what will need to be done in the U.S. to introduce alternative energy vehicles. 

Below is an excerpt from the interview. To hear the entire interview on The Peggy Smedley Show, log onto www.peggysmedleyshow.com, and select 10/29/19 from the archives.

Peggy Smedley:
I have learned some really exciting things about what Hyundai is doing and I’m pretty excited to talk with you about them. But I’m going to start out by asking you to give a brief explanation. What is the Hyundai Neptune concept?

Maik Zeigler:
The Hyundai Neptune concept is a truck and it’s a truck which doesn’t use diesel. Emission-free driving can be done either with expectorant electric vehicles, or with fuel cell electric vehicles. The Neptune is a fuel cell electric truck with a special new design, I would call it a global design.

Smedley:
I’ve never really covered a whole lot of trucks. Now, I’m starting to get into covering trucks, but I’ve covered autonomous vehicles. But what’s exciting about this vehicle is its hydrogen only concept that you’ve got coming out here. That’s what you’re talking about. Talk a little bit about what Hyundai wants to do because what I like what Hyundai’s doing here is that it’s talking about a concept here and trying to get new partners and startups here in the states. I think that’s where I get excited, because you are thinking outside the box and are doing things differently than other companies. Talk to me about that.

Zeigler:
So, actually we already have hydrogen fuel cell vehicles already on the road. Passenger cars are working the fuel cells. We have also trucks and buses working the fuel cells. But this is in Europe and Asia especially. So, the reason why we are here now on the show and showing a concept truck is because we want to get some feedback if this truck design is also acceptable here in this space. So it has the so-called conventional truck.

So, a conventional truck has this big nose and a big engine hood, and our concept truck that we have here doesn’t have this engine hood anymore. It looks more like, I don’t want to say a European style, but somewhere in between. Then you have to know if there’s customer acceptance for such a new design.

Smedley:
It reminds me of the old look and a new look. It’s very edgy, it’s really creative.

Zeigler:
Yeah. It’s a good reason that it looks like a truck, or like a train because an original train was an example for this design. The bullet train is the most aerodynamic shape you can find. If you look from the side, it even could be like an airplane wing. So they have the most aerodynamic shape that you can get onto a truck.

Smedley:
So when you guys were coming up with this concept, and you were thinking of bringing it here to the states, what do you hope to achieve? Are you hoping to educate people just in general on what you’re trying to achieve? Are you hoping to really get people to understand the long-term strategy that you can change the way…. We have to think about sustainability. We have to think about green. But we have to think differently. Is that what you’re saying? “Look, we can do things totally different.” You’re doing it already and that’s the safe thing to think about things differently?

Zeigler:
Well, I would say it’s less about education. I mean, that’s the role of the teachers and the roles of the educator of the children—about the necessity of the CO2 reduction, about the necessity to do something against global warming. So, our main intention in being here is actually to talk to a possible customer, to energy providers, and to gas companies to set up a consulting association to get to a business place to make this type of technology really a profitable business case. Because what we don’t want to do is just like a clean washing attempt. Just showing one prototype and telling we are green. This is not being green. Being green is really changing the business, changing with hundreds and thousands of products, which are not polluting the environment anymore.

Smedley:
So do you think that we’re able to achieve this, or do you think this is going to take the government and it’s going to take businesses? Who’s going to really be able to make this happen? Because it seems like this is a lot of effort to push this forward.

Zeigler:
Everybody has to be involved. Especially Europe. So, in Europe, you have strong regulations, which are favoring this kind of technology. So, the first 1,600 trucks we are applying in the middle of Europe. They have really a highway rate tax for up to $1 per kilometer driven. With an eco-friendly vehicle like our trucks, you can omit this highway taxes, which is easily $80,000 a year.

Now, this business case might look different here. We don’t have this high highway tax like in Europe. But maybe there is the chance of lower energy costs to produce hydrogen. We have the bigger players here. We have huge fleets here which actually have a business case because there’s so many vehicles. They have a business case of building up their own mutual inflation. That’s our main intention. Calling to the customers, it also falls to drivers if their license comes up, calling to all partners to get into this green technology.

Smedley:
So, realistically how long’s it going to take make this happen? Because nothing happens overnight. It’s going to take some time.

Zeigler:
Yes. So, in other countries, we are already doing it. It’s a very, very fast change. Many of our friends and competitors also announced that they are completely changing over to electrified vehicles. So it’s starting right now.

Now if you ask me about a timeline in the U.S., that’s exactly why we are here. That’s what we have to figure out. What are the legal regulations, what are government trends, what are energy costs, and so on. So, there’s a lot of pyramid, which we have to take into account to figure out when is the right time to start with what kind of technology in this space.

Smedley:
What are you talking about will happen in the next five to 10 years with putting everything together; autonomous everything we’ve been talking about today?

Zeigler:
Well, it depends. Also, we don’t know what the legislation’s going to be like. There’s more long-term things from the legislation. More pressing is, from the technology perspective, how fast are they going to get a profitable business. Because, in the states, it’s all about money. And I mean this in a positive sense. If we find a business case which makes this way of operating cheaper than diesel and there are chances to do this. Then the change will come fairly quick.

Let me add one more thing on the long-term fuel. If the government figures out that they cannot operate all the energy consuming operations with the oil, if they go to renewable resources, then they have to find a way how to store energy. Because wind and solar is not constantly produced. It’s not produced when you really need it. So, then you have to store energy. The only way to store energy is via hydrogen. So countries like Japan and Korea, they are changing over now to this hydrogen society and starting to build up the infrastructure to store hydrogen, which then can be used very easily in our vehicles.