Imagine a truck that only emits water vapor, produces its own electricity onboard and has a range of up to 600 miles.
Volvo have made it possible with fuel cells powered by hydrogen, and during this summer they started to test a new line of trucks using this technology.
Volvo Trucks is beginning series production of the electric versions of the company’s most important product range, its heavy-duty trucks: Volvo FH, Volvo FM and Volvo FMX. These trucks can operate at a total weight of 44 tons and the three models represent around two-thirds of the company’s sales.
“We have been developing this technology for some years now, and it feels great to see the first trucks successfully running on the test track,” said Roger Alm, President of Volvo Trucks division.
“The combination of battery electric and fuel cell electric will enable our customers to completely eliminate CO2 exhaust emissions from their trucks, no matter transport assignments. This is a milestone and proves that we are leading the transformation of the industry.”
The fuel cell electric trucks will have an operational range comparable to many diesel trucks—up to 600 miles (1,000 km)—and a refueling time of less than 15 minutes. The total weight can be around 65 tons or even higher, and the two fuel cells have the capacity to generate 300 kW of electricity onboard.
Hydrogen fuel cells are much more practical for freight or high-tonnage transport for several reasons. First, a regular passenger sedan would be over-weighted by the addition of the fuel cell apparatus, so any theoretical 4-door model would have to be much bigger and heavier.
Secondly, pure hydrogen is not something most citizens can easily get their hands on, and it requires much more time to refuel than normal gasoline or diesel.
For freight vehicles or trains that run on schedules and stop at designated facilities, all three of these problems are easily surmounted.
Volvo Trucks’ electric portfolio could cover around 45% of all goods transported in Europe today, mostly because European trucking routes are much smaller than in the U.S., (averaging 160 miles, or 300 km), so the need to arrive at a special refueling station doesn’t become an issue.
“We have sold around 1,000 units of our heavy electric trucks and more than 2,600 of our electric trucks in total. We expect volumes to increase significantly in the next few years. By 2030, at least 50 percent of the trucks we sell globally should be electric,” says Alm.