Volvo is also aiming for similar ranges. Its as-yet-unnamed hydrogen truck prototype is based on the Volvo FH Electric e-model and could enable a gross vehicle weight of up to 65 tons. Two fuel cells are also fed with the deep cooled liquid hydrogen sLH2, from which they deliver up to 300 kW (408 hp) of power. Roger Alm, president of Volvo Trucks, remains relatively cautious in his assessment of future deployment scenarios: “Electric trucks with hydrogen powered fuel cells are particularly suitable for long distances and heavy, energy intensive tasks. They could also be an option for countries where battery charging options are limited.” He states that a start of production is conceivable for “the second half of the decade”. Until then, Volvo also plans to conduct practical trials with pilot customers.
Cooperation with US companies for 350 bar trucks
Iveco, in turn, is working with US specialist Nikola to develop a fuel cell truck based on the Iveco S-Way truck. A battery electric model will be presented before the end of 2022, and a fuel cell variant could follow in 2023. The South Korean group Hyundai is cooperating with Hyzon, also a US based manufacturer, and already delivered ten “Xcient Fuel Cell” heavy duty H2 trucks from South Korea to Switzerland in 2020. Its 190 kW (258 hp) propulsion system uses two 95 kW fuel cell units. A total of seven tanks store up to 32 kilograms of hydrogen – in this case, however, not deep frozen, but at a pressure of 350 bar. With this solution, the range of a 34 ton trailer tractor is around 400 kilometers. Refueling at a 350 bar filling station is supposedly possible in eight to 20 minutes. Hyundai plans to produce and deliver 1,600 units of its hydrogen truck worldwide by 2025. The South Korean-US constellation of companies is also working intensively on increasing the range to up to 1,000 km on a single tank.
Hydrogen development hotspot close to the birthplace of the automobile
In order to be able to produce fuel cells in the required quantities, Daimler Truck and Volvo founded the joint venture Cellcentric at the end of 2020. In addition to its presence in the Stuttgart region, Cellcentric is also setting up a development and production center in Burnaby, Canada. At its site in Weilheim, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, up to 800 employees will produce fuel cells for both commercial vehicle manufacturers. It is not without pride that the company points to its proximity to the birthplace of the automobile.
Since the beginning of 2020, freight forwarder Große-Vehne, also based near Stuttgart in Germany, has been testing a 26-ton truck with a fuel cell and 350 bar hydrogen storage system as part of the publicly funded “Hylix-B” project. In everyday operation, the vehicle, which is based on the Mercedes-Benz Actros, achieved a range of about 500 kilometers. This corresponds to a hydrogen consumption of around 10 kilograms per 100 kilometers. The company selects its deployment routes based on where H2 refueling stations are actually available. The project’s “Total Cost of Ownership” analysis, which takes into account acquisition, energy, and operating costs, expects hydrogen to have an advantage by 2030 at the latest – especially in view of rising diesel prices.
Retrofits are already being offered as well