ULSAN, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- Hyundai Motors Co., South Korea's biggest automaker, launched a hydrogen bus on a regular route in Ulsan for the first time in the nation after a one-year trial period, the industry ministry said Monday.
The hydrogen fuel cell bus began carrying passengers on a 56-kilometer track twice a day in Ulsan, the nation's automotive industry hub located 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said.
Starting with Ulsan, 30 more buses will be put on regular routes in major cities across the nation next year, the ministry said.
Hydrogen vehicles run on electricity generated by a fuel cell -- a device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce power and water as a by-product. The buses can be refueled faster than electric vehicles because hydrogen can be pumped into the car like regular fuel.
On the first day of its operation, Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo, Hyundai Motor President Han Sung-kwon and city officials boarded the bus and signed a memorandum of understanding to expand the hydrogen infrastructure and develop the emerging vehicle sector.
Hyundai Motor and its parts makers said they will invest 900 billion won (US$739.7 million) with a goal of producing 30,000 hydrogen vehicles annually.
The ministry said it will expand support for the emission-free vehicles to create a market for 16,000 hydrogen vehicles, including 1,000 buses, by 2022 to ease air pollution problems and promote next-generation vehicles.
As part of the broader plan, the government and private businesses are set to establish a special purpose company within this year to build hydrogen fueling stations to expand the infrastructure for emission-free vehicles.
Local carmakers have released a series of next-generation fuel cell lineups in recent years but demand remains feeble in the domestic market due in large part to a lack of charging station infrastructure and high costs of such vehicles and fuel.
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