FCEVs have had their eureka moment, now it’s time to scale

Fuel cell powertrains are well suited to the commercial vehicle sector. What will spur mass deployment? By Freddie Holmes

Building a hydrogen ecosystem is a heavy undertaking for the commercial vehicle (CV) industry. Manufacturers cannot simply sell fuel cell trucks and step aside. Wider considerations around the production and delivery of fuel are just as important, if not more so.

Special report: Commercial vehicle hydrogen powertrain

While the technology is already maturing—there is little need for breakthroughs in terms of performance, unlike with battery powertrains—it must be optimised for mobile applications. The underlying components and systems must also be produced in high enough volumes to service the expected surge in volumes coming from the automotive industry. While efforts in the passenger car sector have stalled to some degree, the CV sector remains heavily invested in hydrogen. Faster refuelling times and better long-distance range are the main selling points.

Hyzon Motors fuel cell semitruck
Hydrogen will form part of a wider zero emissions mix

Not every application is ideally suited to a fuel cell powertrain, but there are many where it makes plenty of sense. At a high level, it boils down to long distances and high loads. That’s according to Kristin Ringland, Partner at EY-Parthenon and a member of its Global eMobility Board. “In these cases, the energy density of how you power the vehicle and how fast that energy can be recharged becomes very important,” Ringland explains. “Hydrogen has a much higher energy density compared to a battery, and you can fill a hydrogen vehicle in a similar time to a diesel. If you want to go long distances over the course of the day, the fuel cell has the right kind of capabilities.”

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