According to Volvo Trucks, the fuel cells for the vehicles will be provided by cellcentric, a joint venture established with Daimler Truck in March 2021.
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Volvo Trucks said Monday it had started testing vehicles using “hydrogen-powered fuel cells,” with the Swedish company claiming their range could extend to up to 1,000 kilometers, or just over 621 miles.
In a statement, Volvo Trucks, headquartered in Gothenburg, said it would take less than 15 minutes to refuel the vehicles. Customer pilots are slated to begin in the next few years, with commercialization “scheduled for the second half of this decade.”
Cellcentric, a joint venture founded in March 2021 with Daimler Truck, supplies fuel cells for the vehicles.
“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric trucks will be particularly suitable for long distances and heavy, energy-intensive tasks,” said Roger Alm, President of Volvo Trucks.
In addition to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Volvo Trucks – part of the Volvo Group – has also developed battery electric trucks.
The electrification of heavy-duty trucks in long-distance transport brings with it its own set of challenges. The International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook for 2021 has described that long-haul trucks require “advanced technologies for high power charging and/or large batteries”.
Competition within the industry has increased in recent years. Volvo Trucks’ focus on zero-emission technologies will put it in competition with companies like Tesla and JV partner Daimler Truck, both of which are developing electric trucks.
Like Volvo Trucks, Daimler Truck relies on both battery-electric and hydrogen vehicles.
In an interview with CNBC last year, Daimler Truck CEO Martin Daum was asked about the debate between battery electrics and hydrogen fuel cells.
“We choose both because both… make sense,” he replied, before explaining how different technologies would be appropriate in different scenarios.
“In general you can say: If you drive into the city, where you need less energy there, you can charge overnight in a depot, then it’s definitely battery-electric,” he said.
“But the moment you’re on the road, the moment you’re going from Stockholm to Barcelona… I think you need something that’s better to transport and where to refuel, and ultimately that’s H2.”
“The verdict hasn’t come out yet, but I think it’s too risky for a company of our size to just bet on one technology.”
While there is excitement in some circles about the potential of hydrogen-powered vehicles, there are hurdles when it comes to expanding the sector, Volvo Trucks acknowledged on Monday.
It pointed to challenges, including the “large-scale supply of green hydrogen” and “the fact that the refueling infrastructure for heavy vehicles has yet to be developed”.
Described by the IEA as a “versatile energy carrier”, hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be used in a large number of industries.
It can be made in a number of ways. One method is electrolysis, in which an electric current splits water into oxygen and hydrogen.
When the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source like wind or solar, some call it “green” or “renewable” hydrogen. Today, the majority of hydrogen production is based on fossil fuels.
Last week, Volvo Construction Equipment, also part of the Volvo Group, announced that it had started testing a “prototype fuel cell articulated hauler”.