Oct 6, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Here come the hydrogen trucks

The XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy duty truck. Photo courtesy of Hyundai
The XCIENT Fuel Cell heavy duty truck. Photo courtesy of Hyundai

Hydrogen-powered heavy trucking is becoming more and more of a thing, even as it's unclear whether fuel cells or battery electrics will ultimately win the long race to decarbonize road freight.

Why it matters: Heavy diesel trucks and industrial vehicles are a huge source of carbon emissions worldwide, and a number of legacy automakers and startups are moving ahead with electric and hydrogen models.

Driving the news: This week is bringing new examples of action on hydrogen trucks that are in development from a suite of companies.

  • Hyundai on late Monday teased the upcoming launch of its XCIENT Fuel Cell (see the photo above), which it's calling the "world's first mass-produced fuel cell heavy-duty truck."
  • Toyota and its subsidiary Hino yesterday said they're developing a fuel cell heavy truck for the North American market, with a demonstration model arriving in the first half of 2021.

The intrigue: It's not just semitrucks either.

  • For instance, "France’s 250 ski resorts will switch to hydrogen-powered snow-grooming machinery as they seek to make good on a pledge to cut direct CO2 emissions to zero by 2037," Bloomberg reported Friday.

The big picture: The new hydrogen models come as battery electric trucks are moving ahead as well.

  • "[T]he hydrogen truck market is less advanced than that for electric trucks, primarily because of the need for extensive infrastructure to produce and distribute hydrogen," notes a new Brookings Institution analysis on options for decarbonizing heavy transport.
  • Heavy electric vehicles from companies including Daimler and Volvo are already being deployed. This New York Times piece explores pilot programs at ports in southern California, while Tesla has a closely watched electric semi in development.

By the numbers: Getting back to Hyundai, they haven't released detailed info yet, but said the new truck is "equipped with a 350-bar 32-kg hydrogen tank that provides around 400 km of driving range with a full trailer in tow."

  • They said refueling takes 20 minutes or less and that the vehicle can carry a load "comparable to a diesel truck."
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