Hyundai champions hydrogen cars with the help of K-pop legends BTS.

SINGAPORE (June 19): South Korean carmaker Hyundai and K-pop idols BTS have joined forces to promote the use of hydrogen as a clean and positive energy. The company also showcased a new digital film featuring the K-pop superstars for World Environment Day on June 5.

This is the latest project that the two Korean household names have worked on together to highlight the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel. Hyundai’s new film features a narration by BTS highlighting renewable hydrogen as a “positive energy”. The K-pop boy band relates hydrogen to water, sending a message to millennials that the chemical element is a clean, eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels. The film is also an opportunity to show off Hyundai’s flagship hydrogen-powered car, which is named Nexo.

The cutting-edge vehicle is the brand’s latest commitment to sustainable mobility, in addition to its electric ones already on sale in Singapore. However, the Nexo is not available here as it’s currently limited to specific markets in South Korea, Europe and the US. “By celebrating this occasion with BTS, we hope to convey our belief to our younger generation that hydrogen is truly a positive energy for a better future,” said Wonhong Cho, Hyundai’s executive vice-president and chief marketing officer.

BTS, South Korea’s best-selling artists of all time, is the global ambassador for Hyundai and is using the hashtag #BecauseofYou to communicate sustainability messages to millennials. Earlier this year, the group starred in another film presenting Hyundai’s clean mobility vision.

They also arrived at the 62nd Grammy Awards, held in Los Angeles on Jan 26, in the zero-emission Nexo. A hydrogen-powered car is known as a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV). While it falls under the category of electric vehicle (EVs), hydrogen-powered cars are different from standard EVs in many ways.

As the name suggests, they get their power from hydrogen which is pumped into a tank underneath the car, which means that they do not need to be charged the same way as an electric or hybrid car does. Instead, the power is generated from the reaction of the hydrogen with oxygen (known as reverse electrolysis), emitting clean air as output. As these types of cars produce their own electricity internally, they also do not have long battery charging times. Hyundai is clearly looking to appeal to a younger audience, often seen as more environmentally-conscious than previous generations.

Along with the BTS partnership, the car maker is launching a global hydrogen campaign on the short-form video platform TikTok. The event encourages viewers to sing along to 15 seconds of a short film, record the clip and upload it. But the star of the show is the Nexo, a crossover sports utility vehicle (SUV) which features a 1.56kWh high voltage battery.

One of its highlights is that it can refill the fuel tank in just five minutes which will allow it to be driven for 609 km on a single refill. Hyundai is no stranger to hydrogen-powered cars: They launched the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell back in 2013. Since then, the South Korean manufacturer has overhauled its technology to make the drive system smaller, lighter and stronger.

Hyundai says its second generation fuel cell has the world’s highest system efficiency, consuming as little as 1kg of hydrogen per 100km. Hydrogen is widely used to fuel vehicles but they tend to be in the commercial market, for powering forklifts, buses and large trucks. One of the current drawbacks of hydrogen-powered cars is the limited options for refuelling. A hydrogen engine needs to be refuelled at special fuel pumps, which in the future will probably find their way into normal gas stations. But for now, there are still very few refuelling stations for such cars around the globe.

The good news for fans of hydrogen cars is that this is slowly changing. More stations are popping up — for example, Japanese car manufacturers Toyota and Honda have teamed up with the government in Quebec to build hydrogen infrastructure in Canada while oilrich Saudi Arabia are also planning for its first station. Encouragingly, more carmakers are also getting onboard. Many have introduced demo models while others have shown more serious commitment, including Hyundai with its Nexo, the Toyota Mirai and the Honda Clarity.

German brand BMW is also investing in hydrogen, although many of the big firms are still focused on conventional battery electric vehicles. Platinum has also been a sticking point as it is a very expensive metal and hydrogen cars need more of it to function. That puts their selling price higher than that of normal electric cars. However, there is a new kid on the block in the shape of Nikola, a US-based electric truck maker. It now plans to launch its Badger pickup truck with the options of battery electric or battery-electric fuel-cell vehicle (which is hydrogen-powered).

The car firm listed on the Nasdaq on June 4, and has since seen its share price more than double, sending its market value to US$26.3 billion ($36.67 billion). This is higher than Fiat Chrysler, which also owns Maserati, Dodge and Alfa Romeo brands.