What do South Koreans think of Westerners

South Korea is massively advancing the hydrogen economy

In no other country were more fuel cell cars sold in 2019 - South Korean companies are therefore promoting the use of hydrogen in vehicles and in the energy sector.

KOGAS builds hydrogen infrastructure

The Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS) plans to invest around 4 billion US dollars (US $) in 25 production facilities for hydrogen and in distribution networks for it between 2019 and 2030. The company wants to build hydrogen pipelines with a total length of more than 700 kilometers and 110 hydrogen filling stations.

Selected goals of KOGAS in the expansion of the hydrogen infrastructure *)


2019 to 2022

2023 to 2030

Hydrogen production facilities



Hydrogen distribution pipelines (in km)



Hydrogen filling stations



Truck for the transport of hydrogen



In March 2019, KOGAS, Hyundai Motor and eleven other companies founded the Hydrogen Energy Network. This is to build and operate 100 hydrogen filling stations by 2022. Air Liquide Korea, Woodside, EcoBio Holdings, Kolon Industries, Hyosung Heavy Industries, Nel Korea, Bumhan Industries, JNK Heaters, SPG Chemical, Deokyang and Valmax Technology Corporation are involved. The Norwegian provider Nel Asa received orders for twelve hydrogen filling stations worth 16 million euros from South Korea in 2019.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) is also promoting the construction of production facilities. From 18 nationwide to 2022, the first three are to be built in Seoul, Changwon and Samcheok by September 2020. Each should produce 1,000 to 1,300 kilograms of hydrogen per day, enough for 30 to 40 buses. The budget for each location is up to US $ 4.2 million. Doosan is planning a demonstration project in Changwon to liquefy and store up to half a ton of hydrogen per day.

Selected producers of hydrogen, often as a by-product in chemical production, are Deokyang, Lotte BP Chemicals and KPIC. Hyundai Steel has had the capacity to produce 3,000 tons of hydrogen per year in its integrated steelworks in Dangjin since 2016. Hyosung wants to work with Linde to build a plant for the production of 13,000 tons of liquid hydrogen per year in Ulsan by 2022.

Hyundai Motor Group invests heavily in fuel cells

According to Hyundai Motor Group's FCEV Vision 2030, Hyundai, Kia and their suppliers plan to invest around US $ 6.5 billion in hydrogen projects from 2019 to 2030. The annual production capacity of fuel cells is expected to reach 700,000 units by 2030, 500,000 of which will be for the company's own cars and commercial vehicles, the rest for other manufacturers of cars, drones, ships, locomotives and forklifts.

Hyundai Mobis is building a second fuel cell plant for this purpose. The capacity is expected to increase from 3,000 units in 2018 to 40,000 by 2022. These should also be used in power generation and in buildings.

In 2018 Hyundai Motor presented the Nexo as the successor to the Tucson fuel cell car (ix35 in Europe), which has been in production since 2013. The sales of the Nexo in South Korea were 727 units in 2018 and 4,194 units in 2019. For 2020, Hyundai is aiming for 10,100. According to MOTIE, exports of hydrogen cars were 788 units in 2019.

By 2025, Hyundai plans to deliver 1,600 heavy fuel cell electric utility vehicles to Switzerland through a joint venture with H2 Energy. In October 2019, Hyundai presented a bus for the police. The South Korean government plans to buy 802 of these buses by 2028.

In September 2019, Hyundai and Cummins agreed to jointly develop and market drives. For this purpose, fuel cell systems from Hyundai and electric drive, battery and control technologies from Cummins are to be combined. The focus is initially on the North American market for commercial vehicles.

In October 2019, Hyundai Motor announced a collaboration with Impact Coatings on coatings for metal bipolar plates for fuel cells, with H2Pro in hydrogen production and with GRZ Technologies in the storage and storage of hydrogen. Hyundai Steel wants to increase its capacities for the production of hydrogen metal separators by 2020 so that they are sufficient for 16,000 vehicles.

Hyundai Motor Group's investment plan for hydrogen *)






Production of fuel cell cars (in units)





Investment amount (in million US $)





Intended for use for drones and ships

Ships and aircraft are also to be operated with fuel cells. Hyundai Motor plans to work with Gangwon Province to develop fuel cell powered fishing boats. In October 2019 Bloom Energy agreed a cooperation with Samsung Heavy Industries for fuel cell cargo ships. Samsung wants to become the world's first provider of large cargo ships operated with natural gas fuel cells. Doosan Mobility Innovation introduced a fuel cell powered drone in October 2019. The South Korean companies Hylium Industries and Metavista are developing hydrogen tanks for use in drones.

Fuel cells in the energy sector

The capacity of the fuel cell power plants grew by 100 megawatts in 2018 and 2019 and reached around 493 megawatts in April 2020. Within the framework of the Renewable Portfolio Standard, electricity generated with fuel cells is counted with a factor of two and thus significantly more than solar energy.

Electricity generation from fuel cells





Capacity (in MW)



468 *)

Electricity generation (in GWh)



n / a

Korea Fuel Cell built a fuel cell plant in Pohang in 2015 with a capacity of 50 megawatts per year. The company's fuel cells are in use in more than 20 power plants in South Korea. The company used technology from FuelCell Energy for years.

Doosan Heavy Industries bought the fuel cell manufacturer ClearEdge Power in 2014. In 2017, the company built a plant in Iksan with a capacity of 63 megawatts per year in addition to the production facility in Connecticut. In July 2019, Doosan agreed to collaborate on solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) with the British company Ceres, in which Bosch is also involved. In October 2019, Doosan Fuel Cell was created as a separate company.

In January 2020, SK E&C established a joint venture with Bloom Energy. A SOFC production facility with a capacity of 50 megawatts per year is to be built in Gumi. In the medium term, 400 megawatts per year should be achieved. SK holds 49 percent of the shares.

LG and Rolls Royce concluded their joint venture in the USA in the field of solid oxide fuel cells at the end of 2018.

Selected hydrogen projects in South Korea (excluding power plants)

Project name

Project specifics



Investment volume
(in million US $)

FCEV Vision 2030

Fuel cells and fuel cell vehicles

Hyundai Motor, Hyundai Mobis, Hyundai Steel


6,500 by 2030

Production and distribution of hydrogen

25 production sites, 700 km of hydrogen pipelines and 110 hydrogen filling stations

Korea Gas Corporation


4,000 by 2030

Plant for the production of hydrogen

Capacity of 13,000 tons of hydrogen per year

Hyosung and Linde

Letter of intent in April 2020, completion by 2022


Plant for SOFC fuel cells

50 MW per year

SK E&C, Bloom Energy


n / a

Hydrogen test cities Ansan, Ulsan, Wanju / Jeonju

Pilot projects as test and showcase

Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and Cities


34 by 2022

Selected hydrogen fuel cell power plant projects

Project name

Project specifics (in MW)



Investment volume
(in US $ million)

Power plant in Gyeongju


Gangdong Energy, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Korea Western Power, Nemo Energy

Letter of intent in May 2019, completion by 2023


Power plant in Seosan


Doosan, Hanwha Energy, SK Securities

Completion in June 2020


Gangdong Fuel Cell power plant



In operation since 2019


Phosphoric acid fuel cell power plant in Yangsan


SK E&C, Korea Expressway Corporation, Korea Midland Power, and Kyungdong City Gas

Completion 2020


By Frank Robaschik | Seoul