Hyundai Motor announced plans to launch a taxi and car sharing service in South Korea with vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, according to local reports.

The company said it was actively developing hydrogen fuel cell technology for mass production cars and buses. It pointed out that such vehicles require less charging time and have a greater range than battery powered electric vehicles.

Through its Hyundai Venture Investment unit, Hyundai is investing in a trial taxi service due to become operational by the end of 2016 in the city of Ulsan using 10 hydrogen Tucson SUVs. Within a year, it plans to double the size of the fleet in Ulsan and expand the programme to other cities, starting with Gwangju.

Hyundai also plans to launch a new car sharing service in conjunction with local start-up J'car by the end of the year, using 15 fuel cell and 15 electric vehicles. This fleet would be expanded to 300 such vehicles by 2020.

One of the main aims of the programmes is to build public awareness of hydrogen vehicles and demonstrate the technology's safety and environment-friendly credentials, and to give Hyundai the opportunity to refine its technology ahead of the commercial launch of a range of fuel cell cars in 2018.

The company also hopes that an adequate recharging network will be up and running by then.

The government said recently it would support growth in hydrogen fuel cell cars in the country and has set a target of 100,000 such vehicles to be in circulation by 2020, supported by a network of 100 charging stations. This would rise to 180,000 vehicles and 520 charging stations by 2030.