Battery electric vehicles (BEV) are already today an obvious part of our traffic environment, and battery driven trucks are gradually entering the scene for both short and regional haul purposes. As we progress, the most difficult task we must solve concerns heavy duty long haul commercial transports – carrying heavy loads over long distances. For this, fuel cell electric trucks using hydrogen are an excellent zero exhaust emission option.
Battery electric trucks are already available in Europe for city distribution and waste handling, and the next step, sales of larger electric trucks for mid-range regional transports, has now started in the US and Europe. Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) for long haul will follow.
There is a common misunderstanding that batteries and fuel cells compete with each other, but in fact it’s the other way around. For truck transport, the technologies will co-exist as they complement each other, with fuel cells addressing the really long distances and batteries handling shorter.
It is therefore clear to us that a combination of battery electric trucks for regional haul and fuel cell electric trucks for long haul will be important electromobility solutions for achieving sustainable transports. And the answer to those questioning whether we need both technologies for e-mobility is a resounding “Yes”.
The more important challenge, if we are going to meet long-term demands for sustainable transport using electric-battery and hydrogen-fuel cell solutions, is that both the electricity and hydrogen used must be green (fossil-free) and easily available – produced from renewable energy sources and accessible in high volumes.
A major challenge with green electricity from sources like solar panels and wind turbines is the lack of predictability. The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, and windless or cloudy days mean lower productivity. Today, most solar or wind electricity has to be consumed at the same time as it is produced, with batteries offering storage of only small quantities.
However, by using renewable electricity to produce green hydrogen, it’s not only possible to store the energy on a large scale, but it also allows production of electricity without facing the challenges and limitations of grid capacity. In this way green hydrogen can positively boost the efficient, reliable growth of solar and wind power, and also help to balance electricity supply and demand. These are clearly major benefits and important missing pieces in the entire renewable electricity supply and demand puzzle.
The development of green hydrogen can also be stimulated by increased demand from manufacturing industries. As an example, Volvo Group is collaborating with the Swedish steel maker SSAB for production of vehicles made of fossil-free steel. Volvo will start manufacturing the first concept vehicles and machines with steel from SSAB using hydrogen already in 2021.
So, when will fuel cell electric trucks be available? Our objective is to start customer tests before 2025 and to be in serial production during the second half of this decade.
Today, much of the technology needed for more sustainable truck transport is within reach. Our challenge now is to put all the pieces of this dynamic puzzle together in the best way. We are making progress every day – together with our customers – and certainly have interesting and exciting times ahead of us!
Click here to see a one minute film about fuel cell electric trucks.
Blockchain has been in the news a lot over the last couple of years, often mentioned in stories about cryptocurrencies …