Volvo’s commercial truck group is testing a hydrogen fuel cell semi

Volvo’s commercial trucking division is testing hydrogen fuel cell semi trucks in hopes of overtaking the mature technology. With fuel cells manufactured by Cellcentric, a joint venture between Volvo and Daimler Truck Automotive Group, Volvo claims its trucks are capable of a range of 1,000 kilometers (about 621 mi) and can be refueled in under 15 minutes.

“Volvo Trucks has been developing this technology for a few years now,” company president Roger Elm said in a statement this week. Alm said hydrogen fuel cells would be suitable for long-distance transportation and could work in countries with limited battery charging infrastructure. The company began manufacturing battery-electric trucks in 2018, but they are still not widely in service in the US. With hydrogen fuel cell trucks now in place, Elm says he expects to increase the supply of clean hydrogen over the next few years.

Volvo claims it takes less than 15 minutes to refuel its hydrogen-powered truck.
Image: Volvo

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are similar in that they are both powered by an electric motor, but the former generates its electricity from compressed hydrogen, while the latter stores the generated electricity from the sector power grid. Both technologies are emission-free “over the tailpipe”, meaning they do not emit any carbon while in motion. But while hydrogen gas can release significant emissions depending on how it is transported to stations, BEVs are as clean as those dependent on the electricity grid – which can vary from green sources like solar or dirty sources like coal. .

One obstacle for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles remains the scarce availability of refueling stations. Currently, there are less than 60 stations operating in the US, and all of them are in California. And according to the California Fuel Cell Partnership website, the number of hydrogen fueling stations will grow to more than 100 locations by mid-2023.

The most viable use case for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is commercial trucking. With Volvo’s new trucks, the company joins automakers such as Toyota, which is leading the technology in commercial and passenger applications, and also GM, which is working with Navistar on more than 500 miles of semis and mobiles. Using technology to build a power station.

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