Hydrogen has a long and unsuccessful history in the transport industry, but now hydrogen is coming of age in Switzerland. Here is a report on the innovative trucks from Martin Schatzmann, a commentator about the truck industry in Switzerland.
Two years after its initial presentation at IAA Truck Show in Hannover in 2018, the joint project between the Swiss start-up H2 Energy, Hyundai Truck and Bus, and several other important local players in road transport and logistics is entering its reality phase.
Truck makers and energy providers have been reluctant for some time around the issue of hydrogen. However, not so long ago, a shift in perspective occurred, and now many major players have decided to turn to hydrogen and fuel cell power. There is still some time to go before the full realisation of this fuel becomes a reality as most of the plans are not expected to see tangible results until 2025 and beyond.
This is not so in Switzerland. Uncharacteristically, the Swiss are moving faster than the rest of the pack, thanks to a long and relentless effort by the small start-up H2 Energy in Zurich.
There is a major problem associated with introducing and deploying hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles. With no service stations, there are no vehicles, and with no vehicles, there are no service stations. The question is, which one will take the necessary first step?
The beauty of the project in Switzerland comes from the effort put into bringing together all involved parties, from the truck maker to hydrogen production to transport companies and service station chains, in order to create an environment for everybody to be able to make a profit and to make the project happen for everyone at the same time.
It was for this reason that the Jury of the International Truck of the Year honoured the joint venture Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility with the Truck Innovation Award 2020, an award which ITOY granted last November for the first time in the group’s existence.
The push from Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM) and the Swiss enterprises involved to create a circular economy for hydrogen in the transportation sector is paying off for all parties now.
After the opening on July 7, the first commercial service station dispensing hydrogen was inaugurated. Five additional stations will follow along the main traffic axis east west in the country, making it six, or possibly seven stations between Lake Constance and Lake Geneva.
More stations are already in the planning stage and by 2023 the hydrogen-supply should reach a nationwide level. Unlike other countries, in Switzerland no one asked for government incentives to deploy the technology and infrastructure, because all Swiss players are convinced that only commercial orientation will assure continued success for such a project.
H2 Mobility Switzerland combines all the major service station operators, many big Swiss transport companies and major retailers, In other words, all those who will use the hydrogen and the trucks. The first vehicle arrived on February 18 in the country.
This Hyundai Xcient Fuel Cell is not yet a customer’s truck but is being used by Hyundai to run tests and to complete test drives. This helps to finalise different calibrations of the truck before serial production starts on a big scale. This kind of testing is essential to achieve the technical matching of vehicle and infrastructure, aligning the necessary protocols between the trucks and the filling stations.