Currently, public buses in South Korea mainly use compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) as their main fuel to reduce air pollution. However, many buses owned by private companies and individual charter service operators use diesel. CNG and LNG have lower energy density than gasoline or diesel fuels but they emit less air pollution. Many shuttle buses or commuter buses operated by major companies use CNG as the main fuel while some buses are electric.
The Ministry of Environment said that the ministry forged a cooperation agreement with Hyundai, SK E&S, an energy company affiliated with SK Group, and the association of chartered bus operators to replace a total of two thousand existing CNG-based commuter buses with hydrogen buses by 2026. While the ministry is preparing subsidies for bus operators who want to change their gas-powered buses, other benefits such as loans will be offered to boost voluntary participation.
Used South Korean CNG public buses are normally repaired and sold to Mongolia, China, and countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia where the needs are high for high-quality public transport.
Hyundai will provide hydrogen fuel cell buses based on Universe, a luxury heavy-duty with up to 40 seats, capable of driving up to 635 kilometers (394 miles) on a single full charge. SK E&S will be in charge of the operation of a stable hydrogen supply chain. The energy company will produce up to 30,000 tons of liquid hydrogen annually at a plant located in the western port city of Incheon later this year.
Currently, POSCO Engineering & Construction, a construction arm of South Korea's top steelmaker POSCO, operates hydrogen fuel cell buses as commuter transport for its workers. Chipmakers SK hynix and Samsung Electronics are also considering adopting clean energy buses.
According to the environment ministry, if the hydrogen fuel system is adopted by some 35,000 commuter buses, about 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emission would be reduced annually.
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