While we all obsess over electric power for road transport, some of the biggest companies in both trucking and fuelling are working towards hydrogen power for long-haul fleets. Hydrogen, although currently expensive to produce (both in terms of financial and environmental cost), is expected to form a cornerstone of the future of heavy goods vehicles, thanks to low weight and ease of refuelling.
Fleets of H2 trucks
To that end, there’s been a new collaboration announced between Daimler-Benz trucks, Volvo, IVECO and fuel producers OMV and Shell. Their joint efforts are aimed at creating fleets of hydrogen-powered heavy trucks, as well as investing in the critical fuelling infrastructure for those trucks, between now and the end of the decade.
This so-called ‘H2Accelerate’ group reckons that it will need co-ordinated investment by fuel companies, truck makers and national and regional governments alike to make the future of zero-emissions hydrogen power work, and that work starts here. At first, the plan is to roll out a fleet of hundreds of trucks, which will work in regional clusters and along European high-capacity corridors with good refuelling station coverage. The aim is that, by 2025, the first tranche of trucks will be supported by around 20 high-capacity refuelling stations.
Thousands on the road by 2030
Beyond 2025, the plan is to scale up to thousands of hydrogen trucks being made every year, rapidly reaching more than 10,000 on European roads by 2030. And, of course, to expand the number of refuelling stations to support those trucks.
In a statement, the H2Accelerate group admits that it’s going to need government, and likely EU-level, financial support, especially at the ‘pre-commercial projects’ stage, which is a euphemism for ‘we’re not going to be able to make any profit at first.’
However, H2Accelerate says that it will “will engage with policy makers and regulators to encourage a policy environment which will help support the subsequent scale up into volume manufacturing for hydrogen trucks and a Europe-wide refuelling network for zero carbon hydrogen fuel.”
The challenge of our generation
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation and we are fully committed to the Paris Climate Agreement for decarbonising road transport. In the future, the world will be powered by a combination of battery-electric and fuel-cell electric vehicles, along with other renewable fuels to some extent. The formation of the H2Accelerate collaboration is an important step in shaping a world we want to live in,” says Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO of the Volvo Group.
“The prize is clear. By boosting scale in a big way, hydrogen fuelled trucks will need to become available to customers at or below the cost of owning and operating a diesel truck today. This means truck customers will need to have access to a fully zero emissions vehicle with a similar refuelling time, range and cost range compared to the vehicles in use today. To achieve this ambition a clear regulatory framework is needed, including policies addressing the supply of hydrogen, hydrogen fuelled trucks, refuelling infrastructure and consumer incentives in a coordinated way,” said Elisabeth Brinton, Executive Vice President for New Energies at Shell.
Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG and Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG: “The participant companies in H2Accelerate agree that hydrogen-powered trucks will be key for enabling CO2-neutral transportation in the future. This unprecedented collaboration is an important milestone for driving forward the right framework conditions for establishing a mass market for hydrogen-based trucking. It is also a call to action for policymakers, further players involved and society as a whole.”
Angelika Zartl-Klik, OMV SVP HSSE & New Energy Solutions: “H2Accelerate is playing a pioneering role and OMV is making an important contribution here. In order to achieve the climate targets, we will need any low-carbon technology. Hydrogen is an option for the climate-friendly mobility of the future.”
Gerrit Marx, President Commercial & Specialty Vehicles at CNH Industrial, which owns the IVECO brand, stated: “The widespread adoption of hydrogen fuel-cell technology in heavy-duty transport is a function of the necessary infrastructure. We also need very concrete projects to demonstrate with hauliers and other stakeholders in the industry that this solution is financially and operationally viable. The ground-breaking H2Accelerate collaboration will create the conditions for this to happen and accelerate the transition to zero-emission transport.”