More companies are looking toward fuel cells for achieving zero emissions in long-haul trucking, and two industry heavyweights have just joined forces in developing the technology.
Daimler and Volvo Group (separate to the Volvo car company) on April 21 established a joint venture to develop and produce on a large scale fuel cell-electric powertrains for trucks and buses.
As part of the deal, Daimler will invest its current fuel cell technology in the joint venture while Volvo Group will invest 600 million euros (approximately $652 million), with each entity receiving a 50-percent stake. Daimler already has a fuel cell vehicle in production, in this case the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell.
Daimler is one of the world's biggest truck manufacturers and operates numerous brands including Mercedes-Benz, Fuso, Freightliner and Western Star. Volvo Group has a number of brands itself including Volvo and Mack.
Both Daimler and Volvo Group have introduced battery-electric trucks, though the range on these models are limited to about 250 miles. For interstate travel, the companies see fuel cell-electric trucks as a better option. They're not alone in this thinking. Toyota and Kenworth have partnered on fuel cell trucks, and Hyundai has shown a concept of one. America's Nikola also has plans to launch extended-range electric trucks that rely on hydrogen fuel cell stacks for range-extending duty.
“Truly CO2-neutral transport can be accomplished through electric drivetrains with energy coming either from batteries or by converting hydrogen on board into electricity,” said Martin Daum, head of Daimler's truck division. “For trucks to cope with heavy loads and long distances, fuel cells are one important answer.”
As for the question of where the hydrogen will come from, Daimler and Volvo Group are looking at using renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Another option is to source hydrogen from natural gas, utilizing carbon capture technology to create a carbon-neutral fuel.
The companies haven't said when their first fuel cell-electric trucks will be available.