Hydrogen power to fuel heavy vehicle transport

Multinational engineering and electronics brand Bosch will soon begin trials for its newly developed hydrogen-based fuel-cell drivetrain, which is expected to power heavy vehicles when production begins in 2022-2023.

Fuel-cell vehicles use hydrogen (and oxygen) extracted from the air, and through electrolysis, convert it into electricity, heat and water. This process makes the operation of the vehicle carbon neutral and free of emissions.

Hydrogen-based vehicles are still classed within the electric vehicle market, in that the electricity created through electrolysis is used to fuel the battery that powers the electric motor.

Whilst pure electric powertrains are certainly useful within cars, several challenges arise when expanding the technology to heavy vehicles. Batteries large enough to provide a sufficient range would be massive in volume and weight, and not to mention expensive.

With EV battery technology still limited in terms of range and long recharging periods, fully electric powertrains are not practical for heavy vehicles, Bosch says. However, a fuel-cell powertrain that can provide carbon neutral transportation with increased range and shorter refueling times is a reality.

Dr Uwe Gackstatter, president of the Bosch Powertrain Solutions Division in Germany, says the advantages of fuel cell really come into play in areas like range and refueling time, where battery-electric powertrains don’t shine.

“This means there’s no competition between fuel cells and batteries; instead, they complement each other perfectly. Fuel cells are the first choice for transporting larger loads for many kilometres every day.”

Through participating in a project named H2Haul, Bosch and various other companies are preparing the market for the future deployment of the technology by developing a small fleet of fuel-cell heavy duty trucks for road use in Europe.

Bosch believes that as production capabilities are expanded and the price of electricity generated from renewable energy declines, the cost of ‘green’ hydrogen will reduce considerably.

This view is supported by the Hydrogen Council, an association of more than 90 international countries, who expect the costs for many hydrogen applications to halve by 2030, making it more appealing as a potential fuel source.

Further to application in heavy vehicles, Bosch is also developing fuel-cell stacks with stationary applications, using solid-oxide fuel-cell technology. Such technology would enable more efficient power distribution to power stations for cities, data centres and charge points for EVs.

Source: Drive | Trucks likely to lead the way with hydrogen power

13 November 2020

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