Korea’s first hydrogen taxi service took to the streets in Ulsan.

The Korean auto industry’s futuristic eco-friendly policies continue to evolve with the first fleet of hydrogen taxis starting operations on Dec. 13.

Ten Hyundai Motor Tuscan ix models ― all hydrogen fuel cell cars ― began the test service in the southern coastal city of Ulsan. After the months-long test, Hyundai plans to expand the service to other areas next year.

The taxi service, operated by the Ministry of Environment, Ulsan City Office and Hyundai Motor, will use the same meter system and fees as conventional taxis.

The environment vice-minister, Ulsan city mayor, Hyundai Motor president and a representative of the city taxi operators attended a launching ceremony at a public square in front of the city hall on Tuesday.

The guests took a spin in the taxis along a 2.8 kilometer course near the city hall.

After this, civilians had a chance to enjoy a free ride.

“Hydrogen fuel cell cars are the ultimate eco-friendly cars that do not emit toxic chemicals,” said environment vice-minister Lee Chung-seop.

He said the project would lead to a thriving regular market for the vehicles.

Hyundai Motor, the world’s first automaker to have introduced a mass production line for hydrogen fuel cell cars in 2014, began researching the idea in 1998.

The company started selling hydrogen cars to public offices in 2014. The cars have not been released to local markets yet.

“Hydrogen taxis, the first in Korea, have already been introduced in other countries,” a Hyundai Motor public relations official told The Korea Times.

“But we hope this becomes a cornerstone to usher in an era of hydrogen cars available for civilians.”

Recharging depots for the vehicles are scarce in Korea ― only around 10 have been installed nationwide since 2014, including one in Ulsan.

“The taxis will have to share the city depot for now,” the official said.

“To broaden local use of the cars, the first thing is to increase the number of depots nationwide.”

He said the company planned to add 10 more depots by 2020 and 190 more by 2025.

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