Automotive

Major manufacturer drops hydrogen trucks in favor of battery-electrics

Major manufacturer drops hydro...
Swedish truck manufacturer Scania says it's evaluated hydrogen fuel cells against battery-electric powertrains and is committing to batteries
Swedish truck manufacturer Scania says it's evaluated hydrogen fuel cells against battery-electric powertrains and is committing to batteries
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Swedish truck manufacturer Scania says it's evaluated hydrogen fuel cells against battery-electric powertrains and is committing to batteries
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Swedish truck manufacturer Scania says it's evaluated hydrogen fuel cells against battery-electric powertrains and is committing to batteries

Where will hydrogen fit in the clean transport mix? Not in trucking, says one of the world's largest heavy duty vehicle manufacturers, which is scaling back its fuel cell big-rig research and development operations in favor of battery-electric power.

Hydrogen is definitely happening. It's a convenient (if inefficient) way to store, transport and export clean energy, it offers huge energy density advantages for zero-emissions aviation and shipping, and many folk are expecting it to find a compelling use case in long-distance trucking, where its quick refilling ability can keep big rigs on the road longer than battery trucks that need to plug in and charge for long periods.

But Sweden's Scania, the world's tenth-largest trucking company, thinks otherwise. Having already launched both battery and fuel cell trucks, the company has announced it's committing to batteries, citing hydrogen's wastefully inefficient use of renewable energy, as well as additional system complexity, cost, safety and ongoing maintenance factors.

"Scania has invested in hydrogen technologies," reads a press release, "and is currently the only heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer with vehicles in operations with customers. The engineers have gained valuable insights from these early tests and efforts will continue. However, going forward the use of hydrogen for such applications will be limited since three times as much renewable electricity is needed to power a hydrogen truck compared to a battery electric truck. A great deal of energy is namely lost in the production, distribution, and conversion back to electricity."

"Repair and maintenance also need to be considered," it continues. "The cost for a hydrogen vehicle will be higher than for a battery electric vehicle as its systems are more complex, such as an extensive air- and cooling system. Furthermore, hydrogen is a volatile gas which requires more maintenance to ensure safety."

Scania will leave the door open, it says, for future fuel cell truck development, but it's a pretty clear statement on the topic and an instructive insight into where the industry is going. As for how battery-electrics will stack up, Scania has this to add: "In a few years’ time, Scania plans to introduce long-distance electric trucks that will be able to carry a total weight of 40 tonnes for 4.5 hours, and fast charge during the drivers’ compulsory 45-minute rest. By 2025, Scania expects that electrified vehicles will account for around 10 percent or our total vehicle sales volumes in Europe and by 2030, 50 percent of our total vehicle sales volumes are expected to be electrified."

Source: Scania via Recharge News

22 comments
Peter Forte
Once again, economics and convenience trump sustainability! The old saw about the number of trips that a bucket can make to the well before the bottom drops out, is particularly telling in green solutions. As the world's corporations blithely continue to pillage resources at an untenable rate, concerned environmentalists ask "What happens when we run out of lithium and the other rare materials used in battery manufacture? What happens to the batteries when performance degradation makes them unsuitable for transportation use? Oh, yes, they can be re-deployed as storage for domestic and commercial use, but even then, the writing on the wall says unsustainable.
There is an inherent contradiction between the world of commerce and the world that sustains human existence, and we are presented with the task of choosing which of them we should support. Having already caused a mass extinction, we now seem determined to perpetrate another, this time, on ourselves.
michael_dowling
Hydrogen fuel cells don't make sense for cars,but I thought they might find a use in long haul trucking,where only a few refueling sites would be needed,but if Scania is against that,I am not here to argue about it. Tesla is banking on batteries for it's semi as well. Battery power density can only improve,so things will improve as time goes by. For cargo ships and aircraft, fuel cells are the only way to go,as no battery will ever be able to power long range flights or ocean going container ships.
FB36
Hydrogen gas is explosive, so it would be extremely bad idea to use hydrogen as fuel for any kind of land/sea/air vehicle or as any kind of energy storage!
Are we seriously think there would be never accidents/leakages to trigger massive explosions?

Also heavy trucks, trains, ships etc all kinds of diesel vehicles could be also run on biodiesel fuel, if we just start producing it at large/global scales!
Biodiesel maybe produced from all kinds of biomass/waste/trash/sewage w/ right tech!
& no doubt it can be easily converted to jet fuel too!
ClauS
@Peter, They mentioned quite clear in the article the reasons for dropping hydrogen in favor of batteries. On the other side Scania did their best to optimize the design, using only the amount of batteries required for the 4.5h maximum legal continuous driving time. IMHO hydrogen will never become mainstream, but hydrocarbon or electrofuel fuel cells look to have a future.
jerryd
Just as I said it would happen. The companies would get H2FCVs and as they did the real world numbers, see what a useless scam they are.
Peter I suggest you learn facts as lithium is NOT rare and will never run out and you don't need other expensive metals to make Million mile mile batteries/LFP we have now being sold for $70/kwh which makes EVs cheaper than ICEs.
And I've never heard an environmentalist complaining about the rarity of lithium since anyone that checks knows it's not rare, that is only used by FF trolls as fake news lies.
And I sell used EV modules and they are saving people 75% vs new pack prices and likely last 20 yrs plus at present degradation trends.
And when that is done there are multiple lithium battery recycling companies ramping up to do just that.
Catweazle
"it offers huge energy density advantages" until you take into account the weight and size of the pressure vessels necessary to contain it.
TechGazer
Lithium may not 'run out', but could become more expensive. However, sodium cells probably just need a bit more R&D to be competitive.

As for quicker refueling for hydrogen vehicles, is that really a factor for long-haul routes? If it is a significant cost factor, battery packs could be quick-swapped at charging stations. Scheduling software could avoid batteries accumulating in locations.
VincentWolf
I could have told you that 10 years ago. FCEVs are a dead end. Too much energy lost in converting energy from nat gas to hydrogen or water to hydrogen and in the fuel cell device itself plus the transport of the dangerous material, storage, flammability, etc., etc. It might find a place in airplanes possibly.
HocusPoc
Well, hydrogen or green hydrogen can still be used to charge EVs. Companies such as AFC have began and being show cased in the Extreme -E racing.
HocusPoc
Well green hydrogen can still be used to fuel EV charging. Companies such as AFC have began and will also be showcased in Extreme-E racing.