Perhaps the most radical hydrogen-powered concepts to come out of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Hydrogen Wave forum this week are the Trailer Drone concept and the modular Fuel Cell e-Bogie concept that it’s based on. Together, they imagine the zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cells and autonomous driving tech can combine to change the way we think of trucking and logistics. And it starts with ditching most of the truck itself.
The e-Bogie takes its name and inspiration from bogies, the two-axle subframes that a train car rides on at either end. More ‘shipping robot’ than truck, the e-Bogie is essentially an autonomous electric vehicle chassis powered by a fuel cell propulsion system. The e-Bogie can pull off impressive maneuvers like turning in place and diagonal ‘crab walk’ driving thanks to its four-wheel independent steering and the beefy, low-profile design allows it to carry a small shipping container or other load.
Things get interesting when multiple e-Bogies work together in their ‘Cluster Mode.’ Place a pair of e-Bogies on a full sized semi trailer, one at each end, and you have what Hyundai calls a Trailer Drone — an autonomous trailer that can pilot itself around shipping yards, on highways and even urban centers. Thanks to the dual independent steering at both ends, large trailers can be expertly navigated around tight bends and small roundabouts with ease.
While mechanically either e-Bogie can be the front or rear of the Trailer Drone, the trailer itself houses some of the sensors that aid in highway autonomous driving and front and trailing panels aid in high-speed aerodynamics. Additionally, drones can platoon on the highway for even better long-haul efficiency, estimated at over 621 miles (1,000 km) per H2 fill-up. Upon arrival, the trailer can autonomously unload itself by lifting onto deployable legs and letting the e-Bogies just drive away. It can even split into three smaller containers, each able to be carried by an independent e-Bogie to its final destination.
The e-Bogie vehicle platform could even be useful outside of shipping and logistics. Hyundai also showcased a Rescue Drone concept that outfits a single Fuel Cell e-Bogie with emergency service equipment. The concept could be deployed autonomously into dangerous firefighting or disaster relief situations or remotely operated by responders monitoring the video feed of an aerial drone charged and stored atop the Rescue Drone platform. There is even room between the drone’s wheels for an internal compartment where more equipment or even a pair of stretchers for evacuating injured persons.
The Fuel Cell e-Bogie based concepts are just one example of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Vision 2040 goal of popularizing hydrogen as the renewable fuel of the future. The automaker also debuted a pair of hydrogen-powered heavy-duty service vehicles and the Vision FK concept, a fuel cell plug-in hybrid sports car.