10 September 2021

How does hydrogen fuel an HGV?

With a growing need to reduce carbon emissions within the transport and logistics industry, HGV manufacturers are having to consider and develop alternative options to the traditional fossil fuels that are currently in use.

Hydrogen power might just be the solution that the transport industry needs. As the technology surrounding hydrogen continues to develop, it’s becoming more evident that it could be the low-carbon alternative to diesel. But how does hydrogen power an HGV? We explore hydrogen fuel, how it powers an HGV and how this technology could impact upon the logistics industry in years to come.

Why hydrogen?

Hydrogen power is one of the greenest options for vehicles, with the only tailpipe emission being heated water vapour. Unfortunately, a lot of hydrogen is produced by fossil fuels; however, the increased use of renewable energy within the production process can make this a more well-rounded low carbon emission option in the future.

An alternative to hydrogen power would be electric power, which is becoming a popular choice in the domestic market. Unfortunately, due to the weight of the battery packs needed to power such heavy vehicles, it is not an economic or sustainable power solution when looking to reduce carbon emissions in HGVs.

How is an HGV powered by hydrogen?

There are two ways hydrogen can be used to power an HGV engine, with both offering a reduction in CO2 emissions. The first option is to choose a fuel cell that uses hydrogen to generate electricity to power an electric motor. This is a similar system to that in an electric car, but instead of using batteries, they use hydrogen-powered fuel cells. Because the fuel cells are lighters than batteries, it means these hydrogen HGVs could have faster acceleration and more horsepower than the current diesel trucks.

The second option is to use hydrogen as a fuel in a combustion engine, very similar to the current diesel engines in use. Some manufacturers believe this is a quicker and more sustainable solution than fuel cells, as existing truck designs and engines could be adapted. This would shorten the time of manufacturing while reducing the cost of changes for customers.

With both options available, HGV manufacturers are having to decide which technology they wish to develop for their vehicles. Although there are a limited number of hydrogen refuelling stations currently in the UK and the cost of hydrogen is higher than traditional fuels, if it takes less time to produce and roll out, this option could supersede the need for fuel cells.

What is the cost of using hydrogen?

In the current climate, it is expected that hydrogen-powered HGVs will cost more to purchase and lease compared to the current diesel option. This is due to the costs of hydrogen fuel and the development of new technologies needed for the production of fuel cells. However, the cost of fuel cell technology is starting to decrease.Although there is no timeline for when this alternative HGV will become price comparable, there will become a point when choosing between a diesel and fuel cell-powered vehicle will come down to preference rather than cost.

Similarly, the cost of refuelling a hydrogen combustion engine HGV will also start to decrease. Plus, in line with growing demand, there is likely to be a surge in the availability of hydrogen refuelling stations over coming years. This can be seen in the same way as electric cars and charging points; the more that demand grew, the more charging points became available. If there’s demand, the transport industry always responds.

Find out more

Whether your HGVs are powered by new hydrogen technology or more traditional fuels, TouchStar can help digitalise and optimise your logistics. Our team of experts are on hand and more than happy to discuss key operational directives with you - get in touch today to find out more.

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