30 hydrogen buses to ply six cities next year

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30 hydrogen buses to ply six cities next year

The Ministry of Environment announced Monday that it will introduce zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses from next year in an effort to combat air pollution.

The government will introduce 30 hydrogen fuel-cell buses on intracity bus routes in six cities in trial runs from early 2019. It plans to introduce fuel-cell buses nationwide by late 2020.

The six cities are Seoul, Gwangju, Ulsan, Changwon in South Gyeongsang and Seosan and Asan in South Chungcheong. The cities were chosen based on the availability of hydrogen fueling stations among other considerations. Fuel-cell bus fares will be the same as normal bus fares.

“Vehicles contribute to over 65 percent of air pollution in large cities, with much of it originating from large diesel vehicles,” said a ministry spokesman. “It is urgent to replace diesel buses with eco-friendly ones for the health of our citizens.”

Hydrogen fuel-cell cars are electric vehicles that are powered by electricity generated through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.

Using platinum as a catalyst, the two elements react, producing electricity with water as the only byproduct.

The total number of fuel cell buses that will operate in each city will be confirmed in December after the National Assembly finalizes its budget for the coming year.

Each fuel-cell bus is expected to cost around 830 million won ($742,771), with the Ministry of Environment and city governments sharing the bill. Hyundai Motor, which makes the fuel-cell vehicles, will assume costs of more than 200 million won for each bus and provide technical support.

“We will regularly inspect operations of the fuel-cell buses,” said Lee Ju-chang, head of the ministry’s air quality division.

By 2022, the ministry is planning to bring the total number of fuel-cell vehicles in Korea from the current 465 to 15,000, and raise the number of fueling stations from 9 to 310.

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]
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