|Hydrogen buses are parked inside a public bus garage in Seoul's Gangdong District in June 2022. Newsis|
By Ko Dong-hwan
Under the Ministry of Environment's carbon-reduction initiative, the southern port cities of Busan and Ulsan as well as South Gyeongsang Province have agreed with Hyundai Motor Company to deploy hydrogen buses in the regions' local public transit routes to replace diesel buses.
The parties signed the deal at Biz Convention Center in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang, on Thursday. The deal sees the launch of a hydrogen bus transportation service dry run on exiting routes throughout the three municipalities clustered in the country's southeastern region ― together now a special union megacity known as "Bu-Ul-Gyeong" ― before deploying more of the carbon emission-free buses and other types of large-size vehicles powered by eco-friendly fuel cell batteries.
The initial trial bus, provided by Hyundai, will start running on local roads, Friday and will run a total of 3,500 kilometers across five different routes until Sept. 15, offering transportation service for three to five days on each route.
The purpose of the test drive is to conduct a detailed assessment including any difficulties or unexpected problems that could transpire while operating the technologically advanced vehicles. The ministry will monitor the level of comfort for passengers, performance and cost-effectiveness of operation. The government will also check the entire operation with various maintenance tasks from using a recharging station during operation through to mechanical repairs.
Following the test drive, the ministry plans to analyze the results and apply them to mass-production of hydrogen buses scheduled for October this year.
Starting with hydrogen garbage trucks this coming December, Hyundai plans to introduce more large-size industrial vehicles running on fuel cells starting from next year, including freezer trucks and refrigerator trucks.
"Hydrogen vehicles are rising as the most effective alternative to large-size trucks that run long distances and require many horsepower in order to neutralize carbon emissions," said Park Yeon-jae, chief of the ministry's Air Quality Policy Bureau.
Diesel buses generate greenhouse gas and particulate matters 30 times and 43 times more than that of a sedan running on the same type of fuel, respectively, according to the authority. "Hydrogen vehicles should replace the large-size public transportation rides first to bring the country closer to realizing net-zero carbon neutralization," said Park.