Eleven of South Korea’s influential conglomerates, or chaebol — including Samsung and Hyundai — have banded together with the aim of turning the country into a major force in the global hydrogen economy, while promising to invest a combined 43.4trn won ($37.3bn) in the sector by 2030.
It is a rare act of co-operation for the chaebol — namely Samsung, Hyundai Motor Group, Hyundai Heavy Industries, SK, Lotte, Posco, Hanwha, GS, Doosan, Hyosung and Isu — which, together with four medium-sized Korean companies, have formed a council called the Korea H2 Business Summit.
The 15 members say they will build up supply chains and infrastructure to enable the use of hydrogen across many sectors, including transport and power — both domestically and internationally.
The new group, which met for the first time at a trade show on the outskirts of Seoul last week, will also promote the domestic hydrogen industry, discuss sectoral challenges, offer policy recommendations to the national government and co-operate in order to compete on the global stage as quickly as possible.
"We will bring together the competitiveness of each company to bolster the competitiveness of our hydrogen industry as a whole," said Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Eui-sun.
SK chief executive Chey Tae-won added: “We will create a fund to promote large-scale investment, and to advance big infrastructure projects and overseas operations that require significant amounts of funding.”
Members will meet regularly to draw up detailed implementation plans, and hold an annual conference every September to discuss major issues.
Potential co-operation between the companies include forming consortia for exporting equipment and sharing hydrogen delivery trucks for fuelling stations.
The inaugural meeting came days after Hyundai Motor, the world’s fifth largest automaker, announced it would offer all its commercial vehicles with hydrogen-powered drivetrains by 2028, while introducing cost-cutting next-generation fuel cells that would bring prices of its H2-powered models in line with battery electric vehicles by 2030.
Other council members are also bullish on hydrogen, with SK investing $1.5bn in US fuel-cell maker Plug Power earlier this year, Lotte planning to produce H2 at its existing chemical plants, and Doosan and Hyundai Heavy designing and building hydrogen-production facilities.