Hyundai, reportedly, has been monitoring the off-roader space for a potential Land Cruiser rival. Meanwhile, British company Ineos announced that it will build the Grenadier — essentially, a modernized version of the old Land Rover Defender. Now, the two companies have announced a partnership that could yield exciting developments for future off-roaders.
The two companies are partnering, specifically, on hydrogen fuel cell powerplants. Ineos, primarily a chemical company, knows how to manufacture hydrogen. Hyundai, which has a modular hydrogen fuel cell system used in the Nexo crossover, knows how to use hydrogen in vehicles; part of their agreement will be testing Hyundai’s fuel cell system for use in the Grenadier, which is on track to start production in late 2021.
Hydrogen power would give the Grenadier a raison d’etre beyond, y'know, being an expensive vehicle that sort of looks like the modern Defender Land Rover won’t build. But it also could prevent an existential crisis for the brand; they'll need an alternative to their current gas and diesel powertrains soon, as Britain plans to outlaw sales of fossil fuel vehicles by 2030.
Partnering with a chemical manufacturer on this makes sense for Hyundai. The hurdles for potential widespread use of hydrogen as a fuel source are production-related; hydrogen needs to be extracted, stored and transported easily and cheaply, none of which are simple tasks. And the infrastructure for doing all three must scale up dramatically if it's to become a viable fuel for mainstream vehicles; the number of hydrogen fuel stations in the U.S. sits in double digits right now, and nearly all of them are in California.
It’s not clear what Hyundai’s plans are for hydrogen on the passenger vehicle front, and whether those plans might include an off-roader fuel cell powertrain that could also work in a yet-to-be-confirmed Hyundai Land Cruisier rival. Hyundai, we should note, just launched Ioniq as a standalone electric brand. But even if battery-electric vehicles make less sense for passenger vehicles, hydrogen is still likely to play a key role in long-haul trucking, airlines and shipping.