A fleet operator’s business plan has seldom had to consider the accessibility of fuel, but at the moment it looks like the trucking industry is at the end of an era and the dawn of a new. However, truck OEMs are already phasing out the manufacturing of diesel engines, which means that the consideration of how to source alternate (clean) fuels will be required in every fleet operator’s future business plan.
This article, written for PowerTorque by Lochard Energy, outlines how it is in the interest of fleet operators to work collaboratively on the development of the infrastructure that will support alternate fuels, in order to secure their future fuel and business requirements.
Diesel. It is synonymous with heavy lifting. For nearly 100 years, the compression ignition engine has pushed and pulled our goods and raw materials to all corners of the globe. Diesel has done so with great reliability, longevity and brawn. It has been a key ingredient in the world’s rapid economic growth over the past century. But, nothing comes for free, and this progress is no exception.
In recent decades, it has become widely accepted that burning fossil fuels (diesel included), releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which slowly increases the Earth’s average temperature. Diesel combustion also releases nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions. These have been proven to damage precious ecological systems and cause cancer and serious respiratory illnesses in humans.
Many of the world’s largest countries and economies are taking heroically bold swings to curtail all of this. Through either the adherence of legislation, or the allure of financial incentives, they are decarbonising as quickly as they can. Already, many large truck manufactures across the globe have announced that they will phase out the combustion ignition engine between 2030 and 2035 and will cease manufacturing diesel engines altogether.
Pause here for a moment. Contemplate this. In under a decade, all those trucking brands that you either love or hate, will no longer sell diesel trucks! Those manufactures are currently developing the technology that will most likely serve our heavy vehicle requirements for the next century or thereabouts. That is, electric trucks.
There are two types of electric vehicles. Battery-electric and hydrogen-electric. As a general rule, battery-electric is better suited to replace diesel trucks performing short-haul duties with relatively light payloads. Hydrogen-electric trucks are generally better suited to long-haul applications and lugging heavy payloads. Each vehicle is driven by an electric motor.
What differs between them, is the way their energy is stored and converted. As you might have guessed, a battery-electric truck stores its energy in a battery. A hydrogen-electric truck (sometimes referred to as a hydrogen fuel cell truck), stores its energy in the form of either compressed hydrogen gas, or super-cooled liquid hydrogen.
A hydrogen fuel cell truck uses this stored energy by passing the gas through a fuel cell, whilst combining it with oxygen from the atmosphere. This process generates electricity, which in turn powers the truck’s electric motor. The only by-product of this process, is pure water. I know this sounds too good to be true, but I assure you it is very credible, well understood and proven. The concept is miraculous, however, it’s only a miracle if the hydrogen is produced using a clean source of energy from the get-go.
To create clean hydrogen, it must be generated by clean energy (renewables). When you use the energy from the sun and wind to literally split water into its hydrogen and oxygen constituents, the resulting fuel-type is one with zero carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. When this clean hydrogen is then used to power an electric fuel cell truck, you have pure water at the tailpipe, and there are zero harmful emissions generated in the upstream process.
But the kicker is, that building the infrastructure to support this process, is lengthy and expensive. It can take nearly a decade to develop and build a renewable energy project and its associated hydrogen production facility. This means that by the time the major truck OEMs have ended manufacturing diesel combustion engines and only alternate fuel powered vehicles become available, fleet operators will need to ensure that their future fuel and business requirements are clearly and securely mapped out.
Secure the future of your business now and work with us in developing the infrastructure that will meet your refueling needs, in a future that is all too near.
Lochard Energy are actively seeking to engage with fleet operators to collaborate on the initial deployment of hydrogen fuel cell heavy vehicles.
- Greg Simmons
- Hydrogen Development Manager
- Lochard Energy