People normally expect the development of electric vehicles to come from start-ups and other innovative businesses, but a recent deal may prove otherwise. Hyundai, a mainstream car manufacturer, signed on June 26 a memorandum of understanding to expanding the hydrogen infrastructure in South Korea and Saudi Arabia. What calls our attention is the other part in this MOU: Saudi Aramco, one of the biggest oil companies in the world. Owned by the Saudi government.

But how did hydrogen end up in a deal between a large carmaker and one of the biggest oil companies in the world? This is relatively easy, even if not obvious. Hyundai was the first company to ever sell an FCEV vehicle, with the ix35 or Tucson FCEV, back in 2013, and has the Nexo available for some markets since 2018. Oil companies are also large producers of hydrogen, obtained by steam reforming of natural gas. It is estimated that 95 percent of all hydrogen production comes from this method. In other words, from fossil fuels.

Besides creating a network for FCEV refueling, the deal between Hyundai and Saudi Aramco will also explore “the use of advanced non-metallic materials in various fields including the automotive industry”. Hyundai produces a wide range of products, of which cars are just a part. These materials, which include carbon fiber and, very likely, graphene, are all based on carbon, of which oil can be a very important source.

Although mostly related to business, this news is very emblematic of how these huge companies may try to reinvent themselves if (or better, when) EVs prevail. Instead of selling gas or diesel, oil companies may end up selling hydrogen and byproducts of carbon. Instead of burning fuel, and releasing carbon to the atmosphere, carmakers may resort to the more rational use of energy, imprisoning carbon on car bodies and components. Will that work? Moreover, will that convince car buyers all over the world? Feel free to answer with your comments below.

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Hyundai Motor and Saudi Aramco to Collaborate on Hydrogen, Advanced non-metallic materials and Future Technologies


  • New agreement to expand hydrogen ecosystem in South Korea and Saudi Arabia 
  • Collaboration includes R&D into widespread use of non-metallic materials 
  • Hyundai and Aramco cooperation to explore future automotive businesses and technologies


SEOUL, June 26, 2019 – Hyundai Motor Company signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco). The MOU provides a framework to accelerate expansion of a hydrogen ecosystem in the Korean and Saudi Arabian markets, and to explore the use of advanced non-metallic materials in various fields including the automotive industry.


In addition to collaborating on hydrogen supply and the deployment of hydrogen refueling stations in Korea, Hyundai Motor and Saudi Aramco will grow awareness of Hyundai’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The companies will also team-up to expand the adoption of non-metallic materials across a wide range of applications, including the use of carbon fiber and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. Additionally, the companies will cooperate on the development of future automotive technologies.


“The collaboration of Hyundai Motor and Saudi Aramco will accelerate progress toward a hydrogen society by expanding access to a robust hydrogen infrastructure and fuel-cell electric vehicles,” said Euisun Chung, Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of Hyundai Motor Company. “Both businesses are leaders in the hydrogen value-chain, and our collaboration will support global action for a better, more sustainable future, while exploring future automotive businesses and technologies”


According to the International Energy Agency’s recently released report during the G20 Energy and Environment Ministerial meeting in Japan, hydrogen is currently enjoying unprecedented political and business momentum, with the number of policies and projects around the world expanding rapidly. It concludes that now is the time to scale up technologies and bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used.


At an exclusive investor event held on the day ahead of the G20 Ministerial meeting, EVC Chung shared the company’s belief that a ‘hydrogen-powered society’ is the most viable solution to a successful energy transition. In turn, the company has made important steps toward a hydrogen society lead by its commitment to sustainable transportation, as part of its FCEV Vision 2030. The vision aims to create a worldwide hydrogen society that leverages hydrogen technologies beyond the transportation sector.


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About Hyundai Motor

Established in 1967, Hyundai Motor Company is committed to becoming a lifetime partner in automobiles and beyond with its range of world-class vehicles and mobility services available in more than 200 countries. Employing more than 110,000 employees worldwide, Hyundai has sold more than 4.5 million vehicles globally. Hyundai Motor continues to enhance its product line-up with vehicles that are helping to build solutions for a more sustainable future, such as NEXO, the world’s first dedicated hydrogen-powered SUV.

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