Getting Really Serious About Fuel Cell Trucks

getting really serious about fuel cell trucks

An announcement from Volvo Group and Daimler Truck sees two of the biggest truck makers in the world joining forces and getting really serious about fuel cell trucks. The two global giants are forming a joint venture for large-scale production of fuel cells with the aim of having heavy duty fuel cell trucks on the road in just over five years time.

Daimler and Volvo, have signed a preliminary non-binding agreement to establish a new joint venture to develop, produce and commercialise fuel cell systems for heavy-duty vehicle applications and other use cases. Daimler will consolidate all its current fuel cell activities in the joint venture. The Volvo Group will acquire 50 per cent in the joint venture for just over $1 billion. 

“Transport and logistics keep the world moving, and the need for transport will continue to grow,” said Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management Daimler Truck and Member of the Board of Management of Daimler. “Truly carbon-neutral transport can be accomplished through electric drive trains with energy coming either from batteries or by converting hydrogen on board into electricity. 

“For trucks to cope with heavy loads and long distances, fuel cells are one important answer and a technology where Daimler has built up significant expertise through its Mercedes-Benz fuel cell unit over the last two decades. This joint initiative with the Volvo Group is a milestone in bringing fuel cell powered trucks and buses onto our roads.”

getting really serious about fuel cell trucks
Martin Daum and Martin Lundstedt

Daimler’s new partner, Volvo, was represented by Martin Lundstedt, Volvo Group President and CEO, in the signing of the joint venture deal.

“Electrification of road transport is a key element in delivering the so called Green Deal, a carbon neutral Europe and ultimately a carbon neutral world,” said Martin. “Using hydrogen as a carrier of green electricity to power electric trucks in long-haul operations is one important part of the puzzle, and a complement to battery electric vehicles and renewable fuels.

“Combining the Volvo Group and Daimler’s experience in this area to accelerate the rate of development is good both for our customers and for society as a whole. By forming this joint venture, we are clearly showing that we believe in hydrogen fuel cells for commercial vehicles. But for this vision to become reality, other companies and institutions also need to support and contribute to this development, not least in order to establish the fuel infrastructure needed.” 

getting really serious about fuel cell trucks
The PEM fuel cell is structured like a sandwich. In the centre is a thin plastic film, the Proton Exchange Membrane (or PEM). This membrane is coated on both sides with a thin catalyst layer and a gas permeable electrode made of graphite paper. The membrane is surrounded by two so call ed bipolar plates into which gas ducts have been milled. Through these gas ducts flows hydrogen on the one side, and oxygen on the other. Several of these individual fuel cells can be stacked one behind the other to create a so-called fuel cell stack, thus forming a powerful energy source to drive the vehicle.

Volvo and Daimler will be 50/50 partners in the joint venture, which will operate as an independent and autonomous entity, with Daimler and Volvo continuing to be competitors in all other areas of business. 

Joining forces will decrease development costs for both companies and accelerate the market introduction of fuel cell systems in products used for heavy-duty transport and demanding long-haul applications. In the context of the current economic downturn cooperation has become even more necessary in order to meet the Green Deal objectives within a feasible time-frame. 

The common goal is for both companies to offer heavy-duty vehicles with fuel cells for demanding long-haul applications in series production in the second half of the decade. In addition, other automotive and non-automotive use cases are also part of the new joint venture’s scope. The signed preliminary agreement is non-binding. A final agreement is expected later this year.

The joint venture will include the operations in Nabern, Germany (currently headquarters of the Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell) with production facilities in Germany and Canada. 

 

getting really serious about fuel cell trucks