A government of blunderThe meeting for innovative growth sponsored by the Ministry of Economy and Finance drew embarrassment over hydrogen-fuel cars. Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki made a goal of increasing hydrogen vehicles to 80,000 units by 2022 from the current 20,000 units in the country. But the number of hydrogen cars on the road was only 1,800 last year. Upon finding the error belatedly, the Finance Ministry scrambled to make correction. The fiasco could suggest that working-level officials in the ministry as well as the top chief do not know what they are talking about when it comes to hydrogen vehicles.
There have been speculations over hydrogen cars due to customers’ unfamiliarity with the concept. One is the fear of the cars exploding. That’s sheer nonsense. A hydrogen bomb, which North Korea claimed to have developed, requires an uranium fission reaction. But hydrogen to power electric vehicles is entirely different. Another myth is that hydrogen vehicles only benefit a big automaker (Hyundai Motor is the only local carmaker developing hydrogen-powered vehicles). But that is also nonsense.
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), including hydrogen cars, have a totally different system from combustion engine cars or electric vehicles. Hydrogen vehicles generate more value chains and therefore more jobs. About 300 companies are currently involved in the supply chain in Korea.
Hydrogen cars do not require any fossil fuels and also can purify air in the process of generating electricity. Many countries promote the hydrogen economy. Despite its grandiose words, the government has actually been passive in infrastructural investments due to growing public skepticism from wild rumors.
President Moon Jae-in vowed to promote the hydrogen economy in a meeting that Chung Eui-sun, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor, attended. Under the roadmap, the government will aim to have 6.2 million hydrogen vehicles on the road and set up 1,200 charge stations by 2040. The Economy Ministry must carry out the roadmap faithfully to make up for the poor blunder at the starting point.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 18, Page 30