Is Hydrogen the Future of Long Haul Trucking?
As the world becomes more interested in low emission electric vehicles, the problems around long distance freight are leading major corporations around the world to ask, is hydrogen the future of long haul trucking? Hyundai reckons it has the answer.
Concerns around climate change and the passing of peak oil have been fuelling debates about possible alternative fuels for the trucking industry for years. There has been plenty of speculation and entrepreneurs talking about coming up with the magic solution to the need to reduce carbon emissions for the freight industry.
The year 2020 saw a change in who was talking about and doing something about the topic. The focus moved away from small tech start-ups showing us videos of their futuristic trucks using fuel cell technology and moved over to the genuinely big players in the truck manufacturing world putting their money where their mouth is and pouring considerable research dollars into fuel cell technology.
The two biggest global truck makers, Daimler and Volvo, announced they were going work together to develop basic fuel cell technology, which would then be fitted in their various brands in the future. Iveco signed on the dotted line with fuel cell truck developer Nikola, pouring money into the company in return for access to a mature fuel cell technology for its trucks. Paccar is working with another global giant, Toyota, adapting its fuel cell system and has fitted it in a number of Kenworth trucks in the US.
However, there is one global player which is even further down the road to bringing fuel cell technology into the trucking industry, and that’s Hyundai. Here in Australia, we associate the name Hyundai with some good value-for-money hatchbacks and, more recently, importer of a small range of trucks. In fact, there is a lot more to the multifaceted industrial giant than this. The Hyundai name covers a loosely connected, but strongly performing, group of enterprises run by the Chung family.
The company’s interests include: vehicle manufacturing from little cars up to top weight trucks, construction, heavy industries, engineering, development and a department store chain. As an industrial leader in South Korea, Hyundai has been developing fuel cell drivelines as an alternative to diesel for heavy trucks in the freight industry.
Hyundai Motors is delivering up to 50 units of its heavy duty Xcient Fuel Cell, which it reckons is the world’s first series-produced fuel cell electric heavy-duty truck, to customers in Switzerland.
In the U.S., Hyundai reckons it is collaborating with logistics leaders to supply mass-produced fuel cell heavy-duty trucks. The company revealed the fuel cell-powered Neptune Concept heavy-duty truck at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in October 2019, hinting at what the future holds and Hyundai’s plans for it. The North American market will be getting a 6×4 prime mover. By 2030, Hyundai says it expects more than 12,000 fuel cell trucks to hit the U.S. roads.
Hyundai is also working with various parties in China, which aims to get 1 million hydrogen vehicles on its roads by 2030 as the country’s hydrogen industry is on a sharp growth trend, creating massive potential. Three fuel cell electric trucks are scheduled for launch in China: a medium-duty truck in 2022, a heavy-duty truck is planned to follow.
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