Green Light for Hydrogen Truck Fleet
Author: Michael Vogel
Fuel cells that run on hydrogen are considered an alternative type of drive, especially for commercial vehicles. DEKRA manages the first commercially operated rental fleet of hydrogen trucks in Germany.
An important part of the energy revolution will have to take place on the road. Only by switching to more sustainable types of drive can the CO2 balance be improved. Fuel cells are one alternative for heavy commercial vehicles. They ultimately generate electricity from hydrogen and oxygen. While oxygen can be taken from the air, the hydrogen must be carried along in tanks.
Start-up company Hylane aims to put such hydrogen powered trucks on the road via a transparent rental model. Hylane is a subsidiary of insurance company DEVK. People who rent a Hylane truck pay based on the actual kilometers driven. Included in the rental are the provision of the vehicle, as well as registration, maintenance and repairs, comprehensive and liability insurance, taxes, tire service, and return. This pay-per-use model means that the renter pays only the cost of fuel in addition to the rental cost.
DEKRA carries out delivery inspection for Hylane
DEKRA is a partner of Hylane. “Our experts carry out the delivery inspection of all Hylane vehicles, and we also offer the legally required main inspections and safety tests,” says Alex Rentmeister, Vice President Commercial Vehicles & Automotive Industry at DEKRA. “But we also advise truck manufacturers that want to contribute vehicles to the Hylane portfolio, and provide support for new registrations, since there are also suppliers among them that are not yet established in the German market.” The delivery inspection also includes a leak test of the hydrogen system, which takes place at every subsequent workshop visit as well.
When a truck is handed over to Hylane, the intended mounting is attached first. DEKRA carries out the tests for the registration. The expert organization then subjects each Hylane vehicle to a driving test, partly at the DEKRA test site in Klettwitz, but mainly on the road. “It’s a defined driving route that includes highways and inclines. The trucks are half loaded during this test,” says Robin Keiten-Schmitz, commercial vehicle expert and project manager for the Hylane project on the DEKRA side. “We cover 1,000 kilometers in total with each vehicle and create an individual inspection protocol.” Only then does a truck become part of Hylane’s rental stock. Hylane’s goal with all of these measures is to ensure consistently high quality in its fleet.
Independent status reports at the end of the rental period
Renters can have their trucks’ legally required visual inspections and general inspections done by DEKRA. “Legally, there are still no specific requirements for testing hydrogen drives,” explains Keiten-Schmitz. “But I expect the EU to release something to this regard later this year.” Visual inspections are already taking place, however, and they are supposedly carried out by “test engineers with technical expertise”.
DEKRA also assesses Hylane vehicles with any accident damage, prepares independent condition reports at the end of rental periods, and determines the vehicle value if Hylane wants to sell a vehicle. “Basically, we accompany a vehicle throughout its entire rental cycle,” says Keiten-Schmitz. This also includes vehicle familiarization training for users, as well as training for workshop personnel to be allowed to perform repair work on certain assemblies for the manufacturer.
Hylane offers rental vehicles of different brands
At the end of 2022, Hylane handed over the first rental vehicle to Mitea GmbH: a three-axle truck with box body. The medium sized company rents out event equipment. It voluntarily committed to becoming more sustainable a few years ago. Freight forwarder DB Schenker also announced that they will work with Hylane to build a hydrogen powered fleet of fuel cell vehicles.
Currently, Hylane offers rental vehicles from HYZON Motors, Hyundai, Daimler Truck in cooperation with Clean Logistics Technology, and MAN Truck & Bus as conversion solution of Framo eTrucks. Tractor units and trucks with box bodies are available. The trucks’ average range when fully loaded lies between 400 and 450 kilometers. The hydrogen is contained in tanks that are pressurized to 350 bar. Their holding capacity varies between 31 and 45 kilograms.
Filling up the tank takes 15 minutes
The rental also includes a Hylane fuel card, which can be used to fill up with hydrogen anywhere in Germany. It takes about 15 minutes to fill up. Renters who do not have a suitable filling station nearby can use a mobile station at their own depot. According to market research company Information Trends, there are now at least 100 hydrogen filling stations in Germany. Worldwide, there are more than a thousand, with approximately a third of them located in China. Other European countries such as France, Great Britain, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain are said to be resolutely expanding their filling station capacities as well. The German Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport is funding Hylane’s procurement of 44 trucks with fuel cells. The funding covers 80 percent of the difference between the acquisition costs for diesel and hydrogen powered vehicles, thus directly benefiting rental customers.