South Korea is pursuing a hydrogen economy for economic growth and industrial competitiveness more than for climate change objectives. In particular, South Korea sees hydrogen as a potential driver of economic growth worth 43 trillion won ($43 billion) and 420,000 new jobs.
South Korea has robust targets for hydrogen usage that it seeks to achieve by 2040. For consumption, South Korea aims to expand its annual market from 130,000 tons at present to 5.26 million tons per year. For the transportation sector, South Korea’s New Deal (announced in 2020) sets the 2040 FCEV target to nearly 3 million, including 2.9 million domestically manufactured FCEVs, 30,000 fuel cell trucks, and 40,000 fuel cell buses. In 2020, South Korea led the world in FCEV installation, with over 10,000 FCEVs on the road, thereby doubling the national stock from 2019.
South Korea’s 2040 vision also entails expanding the fleet of hydrogen refuelling stations (HRSs). The Hydrogen Energy Network (HyNet) was established in 2019 with an initial investment of $119 million to expand the fleet from about two dozen HRSs in 2019 to 310 by 2022 and 1,200 by 2040. Also, by 2040, South Korea aims to deploy 15 gigawatts of utility-scale fuel cells.
South Korea’s New Deal made hydrogen one of its central pillars that would help the country decarbonize while also recovering from the pandemic-induced economic slowdown. The government’s vision has the backing of key South Korean industrial stakeholders, including auto manufacturers such as Hyundai Motors Group, whose own FCEV vision for 2030 is accompanied by investment plans of $6.7 billion.