Hyundai CE Debuts Hydrogen and Electric Excavators at Bauma 2022

Prototypes of the HW155H hydrogen-powered excavator concept and 18E electric mini excavator demonstrate Hyundai’s commitment to zero-emissions machines.

The 18E is powered by a 20.7-kWh lithium-ion battery pack paired with a 13-kW electric motor. (Hyundai)

The Hyundai HW155H hydrogen-powered excavator concept made its debut in late October at the Bauma expo in Munich, Germany. Hyundai Construction Equipment displayed the machine at its outdoor exhibit along with a concept electric mini excavator, the 18E.

Bauma 2022 marked the first time that the 18E was displayed to the public and media. (SAE Media)

The pair were a technological showcase of Hyundai’s efforts to offer a range of zero-emissions machines in the off-highway sector. SAE Media attended Hyundai’s media presentation at Bauma where product experts provided technical details on the H2- and battery-powered machines.

Hydrogen: ‘The way forward’

Hyundai CE began co-development of its H2 excavator in 2020 with Hyundai Motors and Mobis, the company’s in-house R&D arm and component supplier. The development took place at Hyundai’s Mabuk Research Centre in Yongin-si, South Korea. Hyundai also reportedly plans to develop hydrogen fuel cells to power forklifts and additional medium/large excavators over the coming years.

“The development of the first excavator powered by hydrogen is very exciting,” said Gert Peeters, product manager at Hyundai CE Europe. “Our projections show that hydrogen-powered vehicles will be more cost-effective than battery-electric or diesel-powered vehicles in the future. We are convinced that hydrogen will be at the forefront of renewable energies in the long term.”

Hyundai believes that hydrogen technology will be the best form of zero-emissions propulsion for medium and large off-highway machines. (Hyundai)

The Mobis-developed hydrogen fuel cells of the HW155H concept are reportedly similar to those already in use for the Hyundai Nexo passenger car, which the company had displayed alongside the excavator at Bauma. The cells for the excavator are mounted in the rear of the machine’s upper structure. The tanks that fuel them are located on the right-hand side of the machine, opposite the operator’s cab. The electrical energy from the fuel-cell stack is converted into usable electrical power that is then used to drive the machine’s conventional hydraulic pump.

The HW155H can achieve an eight-hour continuous operating time on one fuel load, the company claims. “We produce the energy as we go because the powerplant is on-board,” said Peter Sebold, product manager for Hyundai CE. “In our case, the compressed hydrogen and the chemical reaction we’re creating with it produces the electric power which is used by the electric motor in the machine.”

“We at Hyundai believe that this technology is really the way forward,” Sebold continued. “The battery-electric mini excavators are good for certain applications, such as machines working inside buildings. But for larger machines where you need more performance, we believe that hydrogen is the right technology for the future.”

The HW155H was displayed at Bauma 2022 for its world debut. (SAE Media)
The fuel cells powering Hyundai’s hydrogen excavator were developed by the company’s R&D arm Mobis. (SAE Media)

Sebold outlined several of the advantages that H2-powered machines offer over their battery-electric counterparts in the larger size classes, including shorter refueling and a lighter, more compact powertrain. However, Hyundai is not blind to the current pitfalls of hydrogen adaptation in the off-highway industry, namely the question of infrastructure for refueling and fuel storage.

“You need hydrogen production, green hydrogen if possible. And you also need plausible solutions for storage,” Sebold said. “There is a whole movement that needs to take place, and we see ourselves as the spearhead to get onboard and make things happen.”

Hyundai is putting its money where its mouth is on having a hand in the development of H2 infrastructure and powertrains, as the company is currently testing XCIENT hydrogen-powered trucks in Germany.

Electric: Go small or go home

Though Hyundai’s heart certainly appears to be with hydrogen tech development, the company was not shy about talking up its 18E concept electric mini excavator at Bauma. Based on Hyundai’s Robex series, the 18E is powered by a 20.7-kWh lithium-ion battery pack paired with a 13-kW (27-kW peak) electric motor.

That combination reportedly delivers enough juice to power the 18E for what Hyundai calls a full working day, or roughly five hours. Recharging time is just over five hours when using a 220V supply. Hyundai states that the machine operates via an inverter that feeds the 18E’s electric motor. The electric motor drives the machine’s hydraulic pumps in the same manner as a conventional diesel model.

The excavator’s operating weight is 1,863 kg (4,107 lb) with a canopy, or 2,030 kg (4,475 lb) for the machines with a full cab. Bucket breakout force is rated at 15.1 kN with a 0.04-m3 bucket. Dipper arm tearout force is rated at 9.4 kN. It is equipped with an 1,800-mm (5.9-ft) monoboom and a 960-mm (3.1-ft) dipper arm. The maximum digging depth is 2,405 mm (7.8 ft) and the machine has a digging reach of 4,110 mm (13.4 ft).

Hyundai CE is planning to launch several electrified models and sizes that will be available to customers across Europe. “There is currently a strong trend towards electrically-powered machines that cannot be ignored,” Peeters said. “Hyundai will stake its claim in this fast-growing segment.”

Sebold emphasized that these machines will offer Hyundai’s customers the same level of performance they expect while also reducing their environmental impact. “In terms of performance, our goal was for these electric models to have the same performance as our diesel machines,” he said.