The Issue of Hydrogen Powered Trucks

the issue of hydrogen powered trucks

Truck makers and energy providers have been reluctant for some time around the issue of hydrogen powered trucks. Here is a on report some new innovative Hyundai trucks from Martin Schatzmann, a commentator about the truck industry in Switzerland.

Not so long ago, a shift in perspective occurred and many major truck industry players have decided to turn to hydrogen and fuel cell power. Uncharacteristically, the Swiss are moving faster than the rest of the pack in developing hydrogen as a road transport fuel, thanks to a long and relentless effort by the small start-up H2 Energy in Zurich. 

Switzerland has worked hard on bringing together all interested parties, from the truck maker to hydrogen production to transport companies and service station chains, in order to create an environment for everybody to be able to make a profit and to make the project happen for everyone at the same time. 

It was for this reason that the Jury of the International Truck of the Year honoured the joint venture Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility with the Truck Innovation Award 2020, an award which ITOY granted last November for the first time in the group’s existence. 

The push from Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM) and the Swiss enterprises involved to create a circular economy for hydrogen in the transportation sector is paying off for all parties now. 

Many service stations are already in the planning stage and by 2023 the hydrogen-supply should reach a nationwide level. Unlike other countries, in Switzerland no one asked for government incentives to deploy the technology and infrastructure, because all Swiss players are convinced that only commercial orientation will assure continued success for such a project.

At the same time as the inauguration of the new service stations, Hyundai was shipping the first 10 Xcient Fuel Cell trucks for customer use on their way from South Korea to Switzerland. These trucks will start running in daily operations by the end of September. By the end of the year, a total of 50 customer trucks are expected to be running in Switzerland. Another 150 trucks are planned for 2021 and the plan provides a total of 1600 Xcient Fuel Cell trucks to be deployed in Switzerland by the end of 2025.

the issue of hydrogen powered trucks

The supply of green hydrogen is provided by the joint venture Hydrospider. The first electrolyser (max power two MW) has been up and running at the hydroelectric power station in Goesgen since April and it produces up to 300 tonnes of green hydrogen per year. This is enough to supply 40 to 50 fuel cell trucks or theoretically up to 1700 fuel cell automobiles. A second production facility is on its way and it should be operational in about one year’s time.

It is essential for the Swiss project that the trucks remain under the ownership of Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility. The costs are being charged on a pay-per-use basis. Transport companies and retailers negotiate their specific transportation tasks with HHM. After this negotiation HHM fixes a specific price per kilometre, which includes the hydrogen and all service and support of the trucks. 

The service-stations allocate the filling costs not to the transport company but directly to HHM. This procedure allows a precise calculation of the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the trucking operations and helps to forecast the quantity of hydrogen which will be needed. 

In addition, the service-stations negotiate the purchase price for hydrogen with Hydrospider and they resell it including a reasonable surcharge to HHM. To become profitable, and despite the high initial costs a filling station needs no more than seven to eight trucks to be based at their station. 

All filling stations are not only equipped with nozzles for the 350 bar pressure fittings used by trucks, but also with nozzles up to 700 bar pressure for cars. This prepares the ground for fuel cell cars in Switzerland. 

The key for this commercial oriented project lays in the Heavy Goods Vehicle Tax (LSVA) in Switzerland, which is waived for trucks with zero emissions. The rebate from this emission tax equates to a substantial amount of money, allowing Hyundai to balance the higher cost of the new technology of the fuel cell trucks and bring the TCO to a position on a par with a traditional diesel truck. 

Other countries in Europe are using a Heavy Goods Vehicle Tax as a way to get the necessary commercial advantage as there is in Switzerland. A project has already started in Norway with the joint venture Green H2 Norway. The game changer in Norway is the lower production cost of hydrogen because of the very low hydro-electricity price. 

the issue of hydrogen powered trucks