Volvo has begun testing hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks

According to Volvo Trucks, fuel cells for vehicles will be provided by cellcentric, a joint venture with Daimler Truck, which was established in March 2021.

Tomohiro Osumi Bloomberg | Getty Images

Volvo Trucks announced on Monday that it has begun testing vehicles that use “hydrogen-powered fuel cells”, with the Swedish company claiming that their range could be extended to 1,000 kilometers or just over 621 miles.

In a statement, Gothenburg-based Volvo Trucks said it would take less than 15 minutes to charge the vehicles. Client pilots are set to begin in the next few years, with commercialization “planned for the second part of this decade”.

The fuel cells for the vehicles will be provided by cellcentric, a joint venture with Daimler Truck, which was established in March 2021.

“Electric trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells will be particularly suitable for long distances and heavy energy-demanding tasks,” said Roger Alm, President of Volvo Trucks.

Along with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Volvo Trucks – part of the Volvo Group – has also developed battery electric trucks.

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Electrifying heavy-duty trucks over long distances poses its own unique set of challenges. The International Energy Agency’s 2021 Global Perspective on Electric Vehicles describes long-distance transport as in need of “advanced high-power charging technology and / or large batteries”.

Competition in the sector has increased in recent years. Volvo Trucks’ focus on zero-emission technologies will put it in competition with companies such as Tesla and JV partner Daimler truckwhich both develop electric trucks.

Like Volvo Trucks, Daimler Truck focuses on battery-powered and hydrogen vehicles.

In an interview with CNBC last year, Martin Daum, chairman of the board of Daimler Truck, was asked about the debate between battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell.

“We strive for both because they both make sense,” he said, before explaining how different technologies would be appropriate in different scenarios.

“In general, you can say: If you go to a city supply where you need lower amounts of energy there, you can charge at a landfill at night, then it’s definitely an electric battery,” he said.

“But the moment you’re on the road, the moment you go from Stockholm to Barcelona‚Ķ I think you need something that you can transport better and where you can charge better, and that’s the end of it. is H2. “

“The solution has not come out, but I think it is too risky for a company of our size to use only one technology.

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Although there is excitement in some circles about the potential of hydrogen-powered vehicles, there are obstacles when it comes to expanding the sector, a point acknowledged by Volvo Trucks on Monday.

He pointed to challenges, including “the large-scale supply of green hydrogen” and “the fact that the refueling infrastructure for heavy vehicles has yet to be developed”.

Described by the IEA as a “universal energy carrier”, hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be deployed in a wide range of industries.

It can be produced in several ways. One method involves the use of electrolysis with an electric current that separates water into oxygen and hydrogen.

If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar energy, then some call it “green” or “renewable” hydrogen. Today, most hydrogen production is based on fossil fuels.

Last week, Volvo Construction Equipment, which is also part of the Volvo Group, said it had begun testing a “prototype fuel cell articulated dump truck”.

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