Truckmakers eye hydrogen fuel cell tech

Even as it develops fuel cell trucks, Daimler continues to push into the battery electric truck market. It unveiled a European model with new battery chemistry at IAA Transportation last week. Daimler CEO Martin Daum told Automotive News that the powertrain and battery chemistry on that truck would make its way into Freightliners plying U.S. roads in several years.

The buzz at IAA centered on battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell models. Daimler, Volvo, BYD, Iveco and nearly every other Class 8 truckmaker placed electric tractors front and center at their IAA booths. They parked the diesel models in secondary positions or outside at the sprawling Frankfurt complex.

Daimler, a standalone truck builder after its December 2021 spinoff from the corporate parent of the Mercedes-Benz car business, touted its hydrogen fuel cell at multiple IAA locations.

Visitors to its primary booth embarked on quiet and smooth rides in Daimler’s GenH2 fuel cell concept big rig. Elsewhere, the German company displayed the latest generation fuel cell stack in development at Cellcentric, a 50-50 joint venture with Volvo Group.

In briefings and interviews, Daum discussed hydrogen technology with a sense of urgency, influenced by the corporation’s timetable for phasing out diesel transport.

“We are in a carbon economy, and carbon heats up the world. … That’s not a world we want to live in,” he said.

Fuel cell powertrains, which use hydrogen to generate electricity to run motors, are a logical substitute for diesel engines to haul goods and materials over the long routes of the U.S., he said.

The weight of the fuel and powertrain is less than that of the heavy batteries electric trucks need to cover similar distances.

Less weight allows motor carriers to haul more freight. And fuel cell trucks refill at about the same speed as combustion engine counterparts.

Volvo also expects fuel cell technology to work better for long ranges and extreme loads.

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