Fuel cell trucks: mass market or niche?
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Is it coming or not? Rarely has any replacement engine been inflated and written off like a fuel cell. A breakthrough can occur as a transmission drive.
The fuel cell is a topic of discussion again. When short charging times are important or when high payload requirements prohibit the use of heavy batteries, developers turn to hydrogen technology. Hyundai took it very seriously, and it was the first trucks on the road – Mercedes, Volvo and many others want to follow suit.
There is a simple reason why this technology, despite the supposed triumph of traditional electronic phones, is still in the works, says Jürgen Goldner, responsible for BMW development: “The hydrogen fuel cell communicates completely independently of outside temperatures – the Drive provides the best of both worlds. Both worlds: the local emission-free mobility of the electric vehicle and the unrestricted convenience of everyday use, including short refueling stops, as is known from models equipped with combustion engines.”
While the best BEVs must be plugged in for at least half an hour to fill up, the hydrogen tanks fill up again after just a few minutes. And while Tesla and Co.’s range is decreasing. With temperatures, a car with a fuel cell always travels the same distance. Hydrogen as an energy carrier also offers – at least in theory – another advantage: it is easier to store on a large scale than electricity.
But in practice, we do not have a noteworthy gas infrastructure, and there is not enough production capacity. Especially with sustainable operations and green electricity, Ferdinand Dudenhöffer from Duisburg curbs euphoria.
50 trucks are already on the road in Switzerland
However, Daimler and Volvo want to put a fuel cell truck on the road as a joint venture in the second half of the decade, Toyota wants it ready this year, and affiliates VW Scania and MAN have also begun similar development. Hyundai not only has the first 50 trucks on the roads in Switzerland, but has also built its own factory from scratch.
After all, the Koreans plan to have 1,600 trucks for allies alone by 2025. Worldwide, there should be 110 thousand trucks and cars with fuel cells per year, and by 2030 Hyundai wants to increase annual sales to half a million cars.
And things happen again in two categories below: Engineering in Rüsselsheim took the lead in developing the fuel cell conveyor for the Stellantis family. “The production capacity is 1,000 vehicles per year,” declared Lars Peter Thiessen, who is responsible for the launch strategy.
The basis for it is the electric Opel Vivaro, in which the battery is quickly replaced by hydrogen tanks. The fuel cell is located under the hood above the electric motor. This gives the truck a range of 400 km and refuels after three minutes.
Cross turns in the car market?
“For us, it is not about either/or between battery motors and fuel cells, but rather about reasonably supplementing battery motors and expanding the suite of zero-emission technologies in road traffic,” says Thiesen. “First we see customers in the fleet segment in particular, where it requires It’s short refueling times and long ranges.”
The Stellantis trio is not alone in this. Renault has also been digging the fuel cell again and has announced three light commercial vehicles for this year, which are set to run with a plug-in hybrid fuel cell and buffer battery.
In order to fill the gaps in the infrastructure, the French, with their joint venture “Hyvia”, are also equipping the car with a hydrogen system, which either gets the fuel delivered by trucks or generates it itself using electrolysis.
New pickups and heavy trucks are the grease for the hydrogen advocates factory. Asians in particular hope that the fuel cell will continue to be a success in passenger cars over commercial vehicles.
Because once an infrastructure for trucks and vans is built, cars can also moor there, hopes outgoing Hyundai chief development officer Albert Berman, who led development for Hyundai and Kia. But the odds of that happening are very bad, says experts like market expert Dudenhöffer.
The head of the Automotive Research Center continues to see opportunities in commercial vehicles. “But poor energy efficiency with green hydrogen, an unfunded network of filling stations for mass motors and major advances in and with batteries in charging times, decided the race for the battery-powered electric vehicle,” he said.