The government of South Korea is to expand its generous hydrogen bus subsidy scheme to fund more H2 buses in the country next year, with some reports suggesting that it could finance as many as 1,500 new vehicles, more than double the number in 2023.

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On Wednesday, environment minister Han Wha-jin committed to “significantly increasing” the budget available for subsidising the addition of hydrogen buses to the country’s fleet in 2024, with the aim of dramatically scaling up the number of H2 vehicles on South Korea’s roads by the end of the decade.

“The government will build a virtuous cycle structure for supplying hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen production, supply, and charging infrastructure to achieve the goal of supplying 300,000 hydrogen vehicles such as hydrogen buses by 2030,” she said, during an inspection of the world’s largest hydrogen liquefaction plant, currently under construction by local supplier SK E&S in the city of Incheon, just outside Seoul.

The ramp-up in allowances in 2024 will be determined by the availability of hydrogen buses, Han said, but Korean business website Pulse News reported that her department has already submitted a request to the ministry of economy and finance for 340bn won ($262m) — more than double the 2023 budget for the programme.

The Ministry of Environment is planning to more than double the number of new hydrogen buses it subsidises next year, up from 700 in 2023 to 1,500, the report said, citing industry sources.

The city of Incheon is due to take delivery of 200 Hyundai hydrogen buses this year, with 700 due by the end of 2024, while Hyundai has recently announced plans to introduce 1,300 of the vehicles to the roads of Seoul by 2026 — both with financial support from the national government.

Hydrogen for the Incheon programme will be supplied from SK E&S’s giant liquefaction project at the SK Incheon Petrochemical Plant, which the ministry says is on track to be completed by November.

But the project has proved controversial, as it will utilise “by-product hydrogen”, which Hydrogen Insight understands will be made from cracking naphtha — which is itself a by-product of the crude-oil distillation process.