Hydrogen Shows Increased Commercial Interest

The world’s most abundant element expands applications as a commercial-vehicle fuel.

Cummins is testing hydrogen IC engines in both heavy-duty trucks (shown at left) and medium-duty vehicles, the latter powered by the B6.7H hydrogen I6 also shown here. (Cummins Inc.)

While several commercial vehicle OEMs, including Tesla and Nikola, are in the latter phase of testing battery-electric semi-tractors on the road, action in the hydrogen space continues to grow as it relates to transport vehicles.

BMW is heading up a German-funded program, HyCET, to determine the viability of hydrogen combustion engines for logistics applications. Both 18- and 40-tonne trucks with hydrogen engines will be tested in real-world applications. (BMW)

H2-fueled combustion engines

Cummins Inc. used the 2022 IAA show in Hannover, Germany, to unveil its B6.7H hydrogen engine installed in a medium-duty delivery concept truck. The 6.7-L inline six-cylinder engine is rated at 216 kW (290 hp) and 1200 Nm (885 lb-ft) peak. Paired with a 700-bar (10,100 psi) high-capacity hydrogen storage system, the engine has a potential operating range of up to 500 km (310 mi) for multi-drop distribution hauling.

Cummins worked with engineering firm EDAG to converting its base diesel B6.7 to hydrogen fuel, which the company said was achieved “without compromising truck performance or payload.” The solution is aimed at accelerating fleet decarbonization “while using technologies that the industry is familiar with.”

Peter Müller-Baum, managing director, engines and systems, at VDMA (Germany’s engineering-industry association representing the large capital goods sector), told an IAA audience at the Cummins booth that “hydrogen will be a key enabler in reducing greenhouse gas emissions — particularly for heavier-duty applications.” He said it is “imperative hydrogen IC engines are accepted as a ZEV solution to enable swifter uptake of zero-carbon solutions.”

Müller-Baum added that “technological openness” is key: “There is no one-size-fits all solution and we need a range of power options to achieve our climate goals.”

Cummins’ 15-L X15H hydrogen engine is aimed at heavy trucks up to 44T (88,000 lb.) GVW, with a top rating of 530 hp (395 kW) and peak torque of 2600 Nm (1917 lb-ft).

BMW is heading up the HyCET consortium research project that received an initial 11.3 million euros in September from the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV—the acronym standing for “Hydrogen Combustion Engine Trucks”). BMDV will be adding 5.7 million euros (about $5.9M) during the program.

Working with BMW on the project are Deutz AG, DHL Freight GmbH, KEYOU GmbH, TotalEnergies Marketing Deutschland GmbH, and Volvo Group.

HyCET aims to develop two 18-tonne trucks and two 40-tonne trucks with combustion engines. Deutz has developed a 7.8-L hydrogen engine that is currently running in a generator application and will be transferred to an 18-tonne truck. Volvo Group and KEYOU are developing a 13-L engine for use in 40-tonne trucks. The vehicles will be used in logistics applications to determine viability.

Recent hydrogen-fuel projects include HYVIA, a joint venture between Renault Group and Plug, a European supplier of hydrogen creation and distribution. At the 2022 IAA, HYVIA exhibited a ‘platform play’ that included three of its commercial vans, the Master Van H2-TECH, Master City Bus H2-TECH and the Master Chassis Cab H2-TECH.

The van version, for example, has a loading volume of 423.8-cu-ft and its 30-kW fuel cell, 33-kWh battery and 6 kg (13.2 lb.) of hydrogen (stored in four 1.5-kg/3.3-lb. tanks), provides a range of up to 310 miles (499 km) and has a refueling time of five minutes, the companies claim.

Volvo and Daimler

Volvo Trucks also recently announced it will begin testing hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks in commercial applications in northern Europe in 2025. Each of the trucks will use two 300-kW fuel cells supplied by cellcentric, a joint-venture company established by Volvo Group and Daimler Truck AG.

According to Jessica Sandström, senior VP, Global Project Management at Volvo Trucks, “The tests will run in a demanding, harsh climate and it will also give us a great opportunity for driving with heavy loads up to 65 tonnes.”

Toyota and Kenworth

HYVIA hydrogen-powered commercial vehicle at the IAA Transportation in Hanover in September. The company also has bus and chassis-cab versions of the vehicles. (Renault Group)

In the U.S. Toyota Motor North America and Kenworth announced in September that they completed the demonstration of the capabilities of the Toyota-Kenworth T680 fuel cell electric vehicle in the Zero- and Near-Zero Emissions Freight Facilities (ZANZEFF) Shore to Store project at the Port of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles basin and the Inland Empire.

The ten Kenworth Class-8 semi-tractors, powered by Toyota hydrogen fuel cells) have a load capacity of 82,000 lb. (GCWR; 37,194 kg) and proved capable of traveling approximately 300 miles (482 km) with a load. Importantly the trucks, which were operated in the project by actual companies including Toyota Logistics Services, could be refueled in 15 to 20 minutes.

Assuming that the long-promised, battery-electric Tesla Semi enters production, its recharging time will certainly be longer than 20 minutes. In the commercial trucking business, time on the road is money.