Fuel cell trucks – When and why do we need them?

Volvo Trucks
3 min
Volvo Trucks

There is a lot of buzz around fuel cell trucks today. Daniel Bergstrand, the Product Manager for fuel cell trucks at Volvo Trucks, is well informed about this timely topic. Let’s hear his views on the latest developments – and why these trucks are needed in the transport industry.

What is a hydrogen fuel cell truck?

A fuel cell truck is an electric truck that generates electricity from fuel cells that are powered by hydrogen stored in tanks in the truck. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined through an electrochemical reaction to generate electricity, heat and water. This is a big difference compared to a battery electric truck, which gets its energy from batteries that are charged via an external electricity source.

When does it make sense for a transport company to choose a fuel cell truck?

Fuel cell trucks will be especially suitable for longer distances and heavy, energy-demanding assignments. It will also be a smart choice when there is no time for battery charging, for example on trucks that are in operation around the clock. Moreover, fuel cell trucks can be a good option in countries and regions where it’s not possible to fast charge a battery electric truck due to limitations in the electric grid.

Daniel Bergstrand is Product Manager for fuel cell trucks at Volvo Trucks.

What are the biggest benefits of these trucks?

The most obvious benefit is that it’s a zero-emission technology, which allows transportation over long distances with no exhaust emissions except water. Range and refueling time are very impressive since the range of a fuel cell truck can be up to 1,000 km and refueling is done in less than 15 minutes.

A fuel cell truck is powered by hydrogen. There is a lot of talk about hydrogen these days, why is that?

Hydrogen provides a possibility for storing energy. This means it can, for example, be used to store energy from unevenly produced renewable sources like wind and solar power, which otherwise only can be consumed when produced. That’s a great opportunity to reduce or eliminate climate impacts.

Many industries, such as the steel and chemical industries, will require hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources to be able to switch to climate-neutral production. Therefore, it’s a widespread view that hydrogen will be available in large volumes in the future, something that will benefit the transport industry as well.

The range of a fuel cell truck can be up to 1,000 km and refueling is done in less than 15 minutes.

How many fuel cell trucks will we see on the roads in the future?

That is difficult to predict today. It depends on, among other things, technology developments, the access to hydrogen and the cost for it, as well as political decisions regarding taxation and legislation.

How far has Volvo come with fuel cell truck developments and what are the key milestones ahead?

As we speak we are running tests of our fuel cell trucks on our test track, which is very exciting. In 2023 we will start to run tests on public roads and in 2025 we begin with selected customer pilots. The launch of our fuel cell trucks will take place during the second half of this decade, so we still have some way to go.

But haulers do not have to wait to start the journey towards zero emission transports. Volvo offers a complete range of battery electric trucks already today, which are very competitive. They will continue to be very important for decarbonizing the transport industry also when fuel cell trucks become available. Another option for decarbonizing transports are our presently available trucks that run on renewable fuels, such as biogas and HVO (hydrogenated vegetable oil). 

Learn more about fuel cell trucks