WeRide, one of China’s most well-funded robotaxi operators, announced on Tuesday that it is collaborating with Hyundai to launch a “self-driving hydrogen-powered vehicle pilot zone” in Guangzhou, its southern headquarters.
The collaboration comes at a time when China is attempting to decarbonize its economy and clean hydrogen research and production are becoming increasingly important.
The announcement provides few details. It’s unclear when the pilot will begin, how large the trial will be, or what will be powered by hydrogen, which is considered one of the cleanest fuels because it combines with oxygen to produce only water vapour and energy. However, since Hyundai has placed a large bet on hydrogen fuel, it will not be surprising to see unmanned hydrogen vehicles roaming around the pilot zone.
Nonetheless, WeRide, Hyundai, and Hengyun, a Chinese power generation and supply company, will collaborate to “create demand for the use of hydrogen fuel cell battery in unmanned street cleaning and ride-hailing.”
Hyundai announced last September that it intended to offer hydrogen cell fuel versions of all of its commercial vehicles by 2028. The collaboration with WeRide has the potential to broaden the application of its hydrogen products to robotaxis. If there is enough refuelling infrastructure, hydrogen-powered vehicles can recharge in minutes, making them an ideal medium for taxi operations.
Since Hyundai has been producing hydrogen fuel cell systems in Guangzhou since March 2021, the city is an obvious choice for the experiment.
When the plant first opened its doors last year, the South Korean automaker set an annual production target of “6,500 units, with a goal of gradually expanding production capacity in line with Chinese market conditions and central government policies.”