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National Assembly gets hydrogen car charging

May 31,2019
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Lawmakers, government officials and company executives break ground on Hyundai Motor’s fuel-cell charging station inside the grounds of the National Assembly on Thursday in Yeouido, western Seoul. [HYUNDAI MOTOR]
Hyundai Motor started construction of a hydrogen fuel-cell charging station inside the grounds of the National Assembly on Thursday.

The new station will be the first commercial fuel-cell charging facility in Seoul and the world’s first fuel-cell charging station to be installed on the grounds of a country’s parliament, Hyundai said.

Once completed, the station will be open to the general public as well as taxi drivers in a bid to expand the use of fuel-cell electric vehicles. The automaker is expecting the construction to be completed by the end of August.

Normally, it would take about eight to 10 months to get approval and actually build a hydrogen fuel-cell charging station, but Hyundai said it was able to fast-track the process to six months thanks to regulatory exemptions from the government under its regulatory sandbox initiative.

The initiative is intended to reduce obstacles to the development of new industries and Hyundai’s business was the first to earn approval in February.

The charging station will be built on 1,236.3 square meters (13,307 square feet) of land near the front gate of the National Assembly. It will have the charging capacity to fully charge at least five fuel-cell electric cars per hour. Korea’s largest automaker by sales said about 70 hydrogen-powered cars can use the charging station per day as it operates from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.

The charging station will be operated by Hydrogen Energy Network, a special-purpose corporation dedicated to building and operating fuel-cell charging stations. Hyundai Motor is the second-largest shareholder of the corporation.

The facility’s operations, however, need to be reevaluated for final approval after May 2021 for its long-term operation on National Assembly grounds as the regulatory exemption will expire.

As Hyundai and the government push for a so-called hydrogen economy, where hydrogen is used as the main energy source for vehicles and other things, the automaker is also speeding up construction of fuel-cell charging stations nationwide.

Hyundai is planning to build fuel-cell charging infrastructure in Gangdong District, eastern Seoul, by September and one each in Busan and Incheon by the end of July.

The automaker already opened up hydrogen charging stations at two rest stops - the Anseong rest stop by the Gyeongbu Expressway and Yeoju rest stop by the Yeongdong Expressway - in April. By the end of June, the company plans to open up two more charging areas at rest stops.

“By building fuel-cell charging stations inside the grounds of the National Assembly, we believe regulations related to fuel-cell [infrastructure] will further be improved,” a spokesperson from Hyundai Motor said. “Rather than just expanding the supply of fuel-cell vehicles, we will strive to expand fuel-cell charging infrastructure for Korea to become a leader in the hydrogen economy.”

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]