The First Hydrogen-Powered Truck in Northern Europe to Create a New Norwegian Industry
The First Hydrogen-Powered Truck in Northern Europe to Create a New Norwegian Industry
author Added by FuelCellsWorks, March 12, 2018

The first hydrogen-powered truck in northern Europe will roll on roads this year. The fuel consists partly of transformed solar cells - from panels on a wooden roof. The concept is an industry opportunity for Norway, researchers believe.

Recently, the grocery and catering provider ASKO opened a facility for the production of the zero-emission hydrogen fuel at Tiller in Trondheim, with SINTEF as a partner.

The corresponding filling station for vehicles is the first in Norway outside the eastern area, as well as a newly opened station in Bergen. This winter, ASKO will consider ten forklift trucks running on hydrogen.

Later this year, the trucks will be property of Northern Europe's first hydrogen-powered truck: the first of four distribution trucks are now being developed and built by Scania on behalf of the wholesale company. The trucks will be fueled with hydrogen that is produced by solar energy (see factsheet).

Green fuel

  • ASKO's production facility / filling station in Trondheim uses electricity to split water - to create hydrogen.
  • For this, ASKO uses solar energy from nine thousand square meters of solar cells. These are installed on the roof of the group's regional warehouse in Trondheim.
  • Energy from unpredictable sun rays can thus be stored - as hydrogen - for the energy needed in the company's vehicles.
  • Scania will deliver North Europe's first hydrogen-powered distribution truck to ASKO Midt-Norge this year. A total of four trucks will be delivered.
  • The hydrogen from the tank of the trucks will be used to produce electricity in a small electrochemical "power plant" that the trucks carry with them - a fuel cell.
  • Brenselcella supplies power to the trucks's electric motor. This drives the vehicle forward, just like in battery-electric trucks.
  • Out of the "exhaust pipe" to hydrogen vehicles comes only clean water. When renewable energy is the starting point, the fuel becomes completely green.

Parts of the power that will go to make the fuel will come from nine thousand square meters of solar cells installed on the roof of ASKO's regional warehouse at Tiller. The rest of the power comes from the Norwegian power grid, which has greener power than most countries in the world.

Initially, ASKO Midt-Norge will test the four heavy cars. The current hydrogen production plant at Tiller has the capacity to supply 25 trucks.

"If everything goes well, we will have 30 hydrogen-powered distribution trucks in place in Central Norway by the end of 2023," says ASKO's mid-Norway chief Jørn Arvid Endresen.

This is good news for the climate and Norwegian value creation, says SINTEF's hydrogen researchers.

Looks like a significant value creation

SINTEF has participated in the project from day one and participates in the cooperation ASKO has with Scania.

Steffen Møller-Holst, hydrogen researcher and current market director of hydrogen technology in SINTEF, is sure that hydrogen has come to be in the transport sector.

He sees ASKO's driving role as a victory, not just for the climate. Møller-Holst points out that Norwegian technology companies also become among the winners when the use of hydrogen as fuel takes off in the heavy car market.

"In the extensive Norwegian deliveries to ASKO's project, we see something that can be a significant future value creation in Norway in the field of hydrogen technology," says SINTEF researcher.

Filling stations and fuel tanks from Norway

Møller-Holst aims both at the input of ASKO's newly built hydrogen station - and to the fuel tanks that the hydrogen-powered distribution cars will be equipped with.

The production plant and filling station at Tiller is supplied by the Norwegian hydrogen company Nel Hydrogen. The plant splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity (water electrolysis). In addition, it ensures that high-pressure hydrogen can be quickly loaded on vehicles.

The delivery from Nel Hydrogen consists of the company's own core technology plus equipment from two companies that Nel Hydrogen has recently purchased: Danish H 2 Logic and American Proton On-Site. With this, Nel Hydrogen has become the world's largest supplier of electrolysis cells for hydrogen production.

The fuel tanks for the hydrogen-powered ASKO cars from Scania are to be manufactured at the Norwegian Hexagon Composites. The company has its headquarters in Ålesund, plus factories at Raufoss, as well as in American Lincoln and German Kassel.

Following the acquisition of German Xperion last year, Hexagon is one of the world's leading suppliers of lightweight fuel tanks for vehicles.

In addition to the fresh contract with Scania, Hexagon has entered into contracts for delivery of hydrogen tanks to, among others, Daimler and Toyota.

Hydrogen vs. batteries

  • The energy chain that will get ASKO's hydrogen cars to start, starts with electric power from a power grid - just as is the case with battery-electric cars.
  • To produce the fuel as a hydrogen-powered car consumer, more power is needed than a similar battery-driven car must have to drive as far.
  • However, for such large vehicles with the range that ASKO needs, batteries would become disproportionately heavy.
  • Heavy batteries would have reduced load capacity and increased energy consumption for a battery-electric truck.
  • The performance of batteries is much lower than for cold climates which is not the case for fuel cells. There is a major reason why ASKO chooses hydrogen rather than battery for heavy cars that will drive far.

Heavy vehicles important for early market

In the road sector, hydrogen is particularly interesting as fuel for larger vehicles, and especially for long trips, according to SINTEF. This will be an important early market that can open a large future international market, both for Nel Hydrogens and Hexagon's products.

"National transport plan states that 75 percent of new long-haul buses and 50 percent of new trucks will be zero-emission vehicles by 2030. Much of this will be hydrogen vehicles," says Steffen Møller-Holst in SINTEF.

Hydrogen-powered ferries the next step

Hydro's possible intake in Norwegian transport is, however, about more than road traffic. Together with the companies Nel Hydrogen and Hexagon, SINTEF has a key role in a project where the Norwegian Fisheries Beach Verft now designs the world's first hydrogen-powered car ferry.

In Germany, the rail sector is also at full speed into the hydrogen ages. At home, SINTEF has been doing a study for future train operations, commissioned by the National Rail Administration. The report shows that zero emissions on the diesel routes Nordlandsbanen, Røros, Solør and Raumabanen are getting cheaper both with hydrogen and battery-powered trains than with normal electrification or using biodiesel.

"In Germany, 100 hydrological trains will soon be put into passenger traffic, and these train sets have much in common with those used on the Raumabanen. Therefore, it is not unthinkable that hydrogen technology in a few years reduces CO 2 emissions in road, sea and rail transport in Norway, says SINTEF's Steffen Møller-Holst.

Meetings with researchers became crucial

Advice from SINTEF is an important reason why ASKO has chosen to invest just hydrogen as a future fuel for its heavy car park, ASKO's head of Central Norway, Jørn Arvid Endresen, quotes.

The company's environmental ambition is to be self-sufficient with clean energy for stationary use in buildings by 2020, and only have zero-emission cars in 2026.

As of today, the company has 90,000,000 square meters of solar cells on the roof of its warehouse. In 2014, ASKO obtained a license to build two wind farms in Rogaland. These will be completed in 2018.

In 2016, the company received Norway's first lightweight battery-electric truck. In parallel, the group began to sniff on hydrogen, says Jørn Arvid Endresen, Managing Director of ASKO Midt-Norge.

Refrigeration cooling system first - then the whole car

As ASKO's chief in Central Norway, Endresen was informed by the Group Management to look at the possibility of operating refrigerators in distribution vehicles using hydrogen-fueled fuel cells. 

"I quickly discovered that we had to use more electricity from the fuel cells. Via Enova, I contacted hydrogen specialists at SINTEF. I had not had so many conversations with these researchers before I saw that hydrogen-based propulsion was a great opportunity for the heavy part of our fleet, "says Endresen.

The next stage was to put the proposal forward to the group management. Together with Endresen, two SINTEF employees went to the ASKO headquarters in Oslo. Their arguments became crucial when management decided to go for hydrogen, says Central Norway boss Endresen.

Story by: Svein Tønseth for and