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Hyundai Has Created the Fuel-Cell Electric Semi Truck of Our Cyborg Dreams

Heavy-duty concept previews future use of hydrogen powertrain

Hyundai has revealed a sweet-looking heavy-duty Class 8 commercial truck concept called the HDC-6 Neptune. Inspired by the streamliner trains that were all the rage in the 1930s and 1940s, the Hyundai HDC-6 Neptune concept looks futuristic and retro at the same time, clearly channeling the art deco lines of the past while also featuring a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain. Hyundai debuted the HDC-6 Neptune concept at the 2019 North American Commercial Vehicle Show to introduce its commercial vehicles to the U.S. market and gauge the possibility of selling them here.

"The fuel-cell powertrain gave us the opportunity to redefine the classical typology and architecture of the truck," said Hyundai Motor Group chief design officer Luc Donckerwolke, in a release. Because of increased cooling requirements, the grille spans the whole lower portion of the truck, which helps airflow while giving the truck its distinctive look. The retractable steps leading up to the cabin are also hidden within the grilles, while the lack of a traditional hood has allowed for better interior packaging with the powertrain positioned under the passenger compartment.

In line with Hyundai's sustainable mobility initiative, the HDC-6 Neptune concept also comes with an HT Nitro ThermoTech trailer, which features a cryogenic refrigeration system—is Ted Williams inside?—developed with Air Liquide to reduce the truck's overall carbon footprint by a claimed 90 percent. Hyundai says the system lowers its temperature quicker and is better controlled than a traditional refrigeration system. Its construction is also unique because it's made of a one-piece sandwich foam panel with Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) skins and without posts and roof bows, so as to keep the trailer's weight down without sacrificing capacity.

Through its joint venture with H2 Energy, Hyundai will start introducing fuel-cell commercial vehicles in Europe—specifically Switzerland, where it will provide 1,600 trucks from 2019 to 2023. We doubt they'll look as cool as the Neptune concept at first, but maybe some day we'll see Hyundai's streamliner-inspired hydrogen fuel-cell electric truck on the road.