Hydrogen-powered green trucks on horizon
In an effort to decarbonise its transport, Volvo Trucks currently offers battery-electric trucks as well as trucks that run on renewable fuels such as biogas. In the second half of this decade, however, the company aims to add a third CO2-neutral option to its product portfolio — fuel cell electric trucks powered by hydrogen. A fuel cell generates its own electricity from the hydrogen on board instead of being charged from an external source; the only by-product emitted is water vapour.
“We have been developing this technology for some years now, and it feels great to see the first trucks successfully running on the test track,” said Roger Alm, President of Volvo Trucks. “The combination of battery electric and fuel cell electric will enable our customers to completely eliminate CO2 exhaust emissions from their trucks, no matter [the] transport assignments.”
The fuel cell electric trucks will have an operational range comparable to many diesel trucks — up to 1000 km — and a refuelling time of less than 15 minutes. The total weight can be around 65 tons or even higher, and the two fuel cells have the capacity to generate 300 kW of electricity on board. Customer pilots will start in a few years from now and commercialisation is planned for the latter part of this decade.
The fuel cells will be supplied by cellcentric — the joint venture between the Volvo Group and Daimler Truck AG. Cellcentric will build one of Europe’s largest series production facilities for fuel cells specially developed for heavy vehicles.
“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric trucks will be especially suitable for long distances and heavy, energy-demanding assignments. They could also be an option in countries where battery-charging possibilities are limited,” Alm said.
Fuel cell technology is still in an early phase of development, and while the new technology will have many benefits, there are challenges ahead. One of these is the large-scale supply of green hydrogen. (Green hydrogen is produced by using renewable energy sources, such as wind, water and sun.) Another is the fact that refuelling infrastructure for heavy vehicles is yet to be developed.
“We expect the supply of green hydrogen to increase significantly during the next couple of years, since many industries will depend on it to reduce CO2,” Alm said. “However, we cannot wait to decarbonise transport, we are already running late.
“So, my clear message to all transport companies is to start the journey today with battery electric, biogas and the other options available. The fuel cell trucks will then be an important complement for longer and heavier transports in a few years from now.”
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