Hyundai's hydrogen Hail Mary | TechCrunch

When was the last time you watched an automotive company wax poetic about diesel engine controllers for Class 8 trucks? Or a tech conference keynote that touts the benefits of oxygen enrichment in blast furnaces to make steel? Or how to burn low-sulfur bunker fuel in oceangoing container ships?

Probably never.

So why did Hyundai devote half its CES keynote to a technology that’s best suited to long-haul trucking, steelmaking and maritime shipping?

The simple answer is greenwashing. It’s true that Hyundai has invested in hydrogen fuel cells for decades, but it has also been one of the more successful legacy automakers at navigating the electric transition. It’s odd that a company with so much momentum on its side would throw a hydrogen Hail Mary.

But maybe Hyundai’s EV rollout isn’t going as planned. Maybe the vehicles aren’t as profitable as the company would like. Maybe the company is having a hard time securing batteries. Or maybe it realizes that over 90% of its sales are still powered by fossil fuels and that by EV market share, the company is lagging. It might be the world’s third largest automaker overall, but it’s only in eighth place when it comes to battery EVs.

Enter hydrogen, a sector with a green aura about it, a useful distraction from more polluting realities. And since meaningful progress is still a decade or more away, it’s hard to hold the company to its claims.

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