A climate smart solution for heavy transport

Hydrogen fuel cells

Electrification of commercial vehicles will play an important role on the journey towards a carbon neutral society. Using hydrogen fuel cells to power the electric driveline looks like a promising alternative for heavy transport and demanding long-haul applications. The electric driveline is the foundation, but while batteries as an energy source is and will continue to be a key technology, there are other pieces of the e-puzzle.

Battery electric vehicles are a good solution for city distribution, city buses, regional haulage and similar applications. For use cases where you carry heavier loads or drive longer distances, the weight of the batteries themselves and the driving distance until you need to re-charge, become limiting factors. Here, hydrogen fuel cells are likely to be an interesting alternative. The two technologies complement each other and both will be needed in order for us to build the sustainable transport system of tomorrow.

A bridge above a forest

From hydrogen to electricity

In a fuel cell scenario, you stop at a gas station and fill the tank of your electric vehicle with hydrogen. That hydrogen is converted into electricity by the fuel cells as you drive. The electricity generated onboard powers the electric driveline. Fuel cells are not only a promising option for trucks and buses on long-distance routes. Other areas with potential include construction equipment and different marine- and industrial applications.

There are two main ways to produce the hydrogen needed. So-called green hydrogen can be produced locally at the tank station, using electricity to convert water into hydrogen. Blue hydrogen is expected to be produced from natural gas, utilizing carbon capture technology to create a carbon neutral fuel.

Volvo Group and Daimler joint venture

Joint venture with Daimler Truck AG

Fuel cells as a concept is not new, but the development of fuel cell technology that is viable for use in a commercial transport system is now accelerating. The Volvo Group has announced its plans to engage in a 50/50 joint venture with its natural competitor Daimler Truck AG to develop and produce fuel cells for demanding applications.

 “Together with Daimler Truck AG we aim to drive this development, as it is an important enabler of sustainable transport solutions. We are now clearly showing that we believe in hydrogen fuel cells for commercial vehicles. Now we would very much like to see other companies and institutions supporting and contributing to this development, for example when it comes to establishing the fuel infrastructure needed. Ultimately, we want to be able to offer our customers an attractive alternative to diesel,” says Lars Stenqvist, Volvo Group CTO. 

Read more in the press release

Fact: What are fuel cells?

A hydrogen fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy of the fuel, in this case hydrogen, and oxygen (in the air) into electricity. The electricity is used to power the electrical vehicle.

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