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Electrifying Heavy-Duty Trucks with Hydrogen

Any fleet pursuing a goal of 100% electrification will need to plan to include hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in their mix, specifically for their Class 8 truck segment.

That was the overarching theme of a Green Truck Summit panel session – “How Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Will Affect Work Trucks” – that I attended in March at NTEA Work Truck Week.

The panelists included Morgan Andreae, executive director of the Growth Office at Cummins Inc.; Craig Knight, CEO at Hyzon Motors; and George Rubin, chief commercial officer at Loop Energy.

Here are my seven takeaways from that session. If you’d like to learn more, I delve deeper into this topic with Hyzon’s Craig Knight in this article.

1. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are EVs.

The difference is in the electric power source: hydrogen and fuel cells versus battery power only.

2. Hydrogen offers a much higher energy density than batteries.

More energy can be stored on the truck at a much lower weight than batteries, allowing for a longer range and larger payload.

3. The current commercial focus for hydrogen fuel cells is on higher-use, harsher duty-cycle fleet applications that involve carrying bigger loads.

Think long-haul trucks, refrigerated trucks, garbage trucks and dump trucks.

4. Hydrogen refueling times are a fraction of the battery charge rates for a comparable range.

Hydrogen takes about the same amount of time as refueling a diesel vehicle.

5. The big obstacle to fuel-cell growth is the lack of infrastructure.

The high cost of hydrogen fuel and fueling stations has constrained fuel-cell expansion, but the U.S. infrastructure bill addresses this challenge. Initiatives are also underway to produce hydrogen locally to serve the local market. This model should reduce costs by minimizing hydrogen fuel transport.

6. There’s still a lack of knowledge and education around hydrogen fuel-cell technology.

That’s why OEMs are targeting the fleet/work truck industry as early adopters to help build awareness for the broader market.

7. Hydrogen fuel-cell generators could be an answer for EV resiliency.

Fuel-cell generators could replace fossil-fuel-powered generators to charge battery-electric vehicles in the field – especially important during storm response situations – or supplement existing grid capacity to handle power surges.


Sean M. Lyden

Sean M. Lyden is the editor of Utility Fleet Professional magazine.