Volvo recently put its first articulated dump truck (ADT) powered by hydrogen fuel cells on the road, making their “Electric Charlie” a pioneer in the future of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Tesla recently sent Pepsi a fleet of electric semi-trucks to test their viability. Clearly, the future of carbon-friendly commercial vehicles is in the works. Could hydrogen have the market advantage over other forms of green transportation for long-haul trucking?
Why Hydrogen Makes Sense for Long-Haul Trucks
Lithium-ion batteries in modern EVs are sparking controversy because of their fire risks and lack of recycling infrastructure. Lithium-ion batteries also weigh a significant portion of the vehicle, causing potential drag and speed issues in large freights. Other batteries also take a long time to charge, and when long-haul truckers have prompt deliverables to meet, they can’t sacrifice much time sitting at charging stations.
The need for a greener energy source is imminent, and green hydrogen could be the answer to keeping long-haul truckers safe and carbon-friendly. It forces companies to switch from gray hydrogen — captured from fossil fuels — to the more eco-friendly alternative generated by electrolysis.
The total cost of ownership would be even better with hydrogen fuel cells because of less-frequent maintenance and safety concerns. Though infrastructure isn’t booming yet, it requires less intensive and invasive revisions than lithium-ion batteries — cities will need to focus on grid modernization eventually. Still, it doesn’t have to happen because of hydrogen fuel cells.
What’s Holding Long-Haul Vehicles Back?
Hydrogen sounds ideal, but using it for long distances with hefty cargo and potentially changing routes is a lot of stress on an energy source that’s not known for its resilience. It can create energy quickly through combustion, improving air quality for its systems from having water as its only byproduct when it produces heat — making up for this detractor.
However, companies are still concerned with this budding energy source because there isn’t enough infrastructure or research in more refined hydrogen fuel technologies.
Charging hydrogen long-haul trucks wouldn’t happen the same way as battery-powered electric vehicles because hydrogen needs tanks with liquid or gaseous hydrogen. Each requires different storage and transportation. Stations worldwide would need to supply these stores, but value chains struggle with transporting them safely to the few places that accept them. However, existing buildings could be hydrogen refuel stations instead of needing to take up more land to build other structures.
As more fleets invest in hydrogen fuel, the market will obtain greater stakeholder buy-in and become a less risky investment. That means retrofitting long-haul trucks to be compatible with hydrogen fuel and adding fueling stations. Normalization of these fuel sources could increase swiftly. It’s necessary because governmental investments in lithium-ion batteries overshadow potential hydrogen advancement.
The Power Combo of Hydrogen and Long-Haul Trucks
Hydrogen could be medium commercial fleets that need to decarbonize. More efforts and investments funneling into hydrogen means more substantial research and development to find the most efficient and least expensive way to mass-produce it for fleets. Transportation continues to be one of the most intense atmospheric influences, and reducing carbon emissions in the sector could alter environmental efforts permanently.
Jane Marsh, Contributor
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fuel Cells Works, its directors, partners, staff, contributors, or suppliers. Any content provided by our contributors or authors are of their own opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
Read the most up to date Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Industry news at FuelCellsWorks