Hyundai has big plans to electrify its European lineup. Along with battery-powered models and plug-in hybrids, the automaker’s product offensive will include an additional twist: fuel cell vehicles. Hyundai Europe Chief Operating Officer Thomas Schmid is overseeing the transition. He shared details with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Andrea Malan.
Could you sum up Hyundai Europe's electrification strategy?
In Europe, we will have 10 electrified models with four full-electric vehicles plus hybrids and plug-in hybrids by 2020. This is the right mix for this transition period.
What's your market outlook for 2022?
I don't believe full electric will be the solution because even five years from now the infrastructure won't be sufficient. You need half an hour to reach an 80 percent recharge, so if you have hundreds of cars on the motorway you would need a lot of charging stations. It will take time. During the transition phase, plug-in hybrids and hybrids will be a solution for long distance travel. For cities, full-electric could work. Altogether, these alternative propulsion modes, including fuel cells, could reach 20 percent of the market in five years.
Won't EVs be too expensive to make them competitive in large cities?
If you want to reach mass production, it's clear that prices have to decrease. For premium brands such as Smart, price is not an issue so for them it might work. As for Hyundai and its competitors, it will depend on the price of components.
Are diesel engines doomed?
Diesel will still exist, although its share will steadily decline across Europe. My forecast is for a 30 percent market share in five years [down from 49.5 percent in 2016, according to industry group ACEA].
Hyundai has also announced a new fuel cell SUV for next year. What are your expectations?
It will have an 800km range, like a normal car, and autonomous capabilities. European sales will start next year. The volume will most likely be in the hundreds, as the demand is higher than what we can deliver. So far, we have 600 fuel cell vehicles on the road in Europe. Hopefully we'll increase it by 100 to 150 units next year.