Integration of fuel cell technology into heavy-duty trucks

Decarbonisation of road freight transport is a major challenge to decrease CO2 footprint. In worldwide on-road transportation, heavy-duty trucks account for 41% of CO2 emissions, that is 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year. It is the main contributor to freight transport CO2 footprint, see figure 1.

Today, long-haulage transport is almost completely covered by highly efficient diesel trucks. As transportation is a low margin business, haulers must optimise the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their vehicles carefully. Fuel cost and time-to-drive are in the focus here. Transport volume – and for special transports like timber or fluids as well high payload – is appreciated. Today, diesel trucks offer a range of several thousand kilometers, so the haulers are in the position to choose the cheapest petrol station to further cut cost.

Today’s optimised diesel trucks are to be challenged by CO2 free propulsion technologies. In discussion these days are hydrogen ICE powertrains that are based on existing trucks and thus combine low technological risk with already optimised rest of the powertrain beside the engine. Battery-electric trucks (BEV) are already available for local and regional distribution. This article focuses on fuel cell electric trucks (FCEV) in long-haulage applications, to demonstrate solutions which offer the same performance – and in future the same TCO – as standard diesel trucks.

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