NACFE takes fresh look at hydrogen fuel cells


The North American Council for Freight Effectivity (NACFE) has revisited the potential for hydrogen fuel-cell-electric vans to fulfill zero-emissions targets, three years after publishing its preliminary findings and in gentle of latest learnings.

“As we transfer to the zero emissions freight future, in the long term, there are solely two selections of energy – battery-electric and hydrogen gasoline cell,” mentioned Rick Mihelic, report writer and director of rising applied sciences, NACFE.

alternative fuels graph
(Supply: NACFE)

Battery-electric automobiles (BEVs) are rapidly discovering a house in native transport, however sure purposes involving longer routes and heavier payloads could also be higher served by hydrogen-fueled vans. Staff operations can even want an answer involving sooner fueling instances than BEVs.

When NACFE took its first in-depth have a look at hydrogen in 2020, it bought many predictions proper, one among which was {that a} hydrogen financial system can’t be constructed for longhaul trucking alone.

“There’s not sufficient demand,” Mihelic mentioned throughout a convention name to debate the findings of NACFE’s Hydrogen Vans: Lengthy Haul’s Future? report.

However the preliminary report did not think about the arrival of hydrogen-burning diesel-based engines, which have since emerged as a possible resolution. A hydrogen inside combustion engine presents a near-zero emissions possibility and in addition larger simplicity and decrease price as present engine designs could possibly be utilized.

Nonetheless, the report additionally factors out {that a} hydrogen inside combustion engine will possible not compete with gasoline cells with regards to miles per kilogram of hydrogen consumed. Then, there’s additionally the problem of how hydrogen might be transported and carried onboard the truck. Each liquid and gaseous choices exist, however NACFE feels there ought to be standardization.

How hydrogen is transported
(Supply: NACFE)

A liquid hydrogen tanker can carry almost the identical quantity of power as a liquid diesel tanker, famous Mike Roeth, NACFE government director. On this occasion hydrogen might be transported to fueling websites in a lot the identical approach diesel is at present. Gaseous tanker trailers, equivalent to these utilized in Europe, carry a lot much less power that it will take greater than eight to match the density of 1 liquid tanker.

No hydrogen possibility will totally displace BEVs, famous Roeth, since we have already got expertise producing and delivering electrical energy to websites the place it’s wanted. The query then might be, what is going to the combo be of BEVs and FCEV (hydrogen-fuel-cell-electric) vans?

One other new consideration is how the hydrogen might be produced. In earlier stories on hydrogen, NACFE wrote a few coloration spectrum of hydrogen primarily based on the cleanliness of its manufacturing, with inexperienced hydrogen being the cleanest possibility. Since then, dialogue has shifted to “carbon depth” of manufacturing, famous Mihelic, quite than coloration.

“We don’t hear the way it’s produced so long as the carbon depth is correctly managed,” he mentioned.

The report makes 4 key conclusions: that each BEV and FCEV choices might be required; that solely BEV and FCEV will meet the zero-emissions wants of a variety of obligation cycles; that different fuels like renewable diesel or renewable pure gasoline will nonetheless be wanted to assist the transition to zero-emissions freight; and that business should resolve on whether or not hydrogen ought to be transport and consumed in gaseous or liquid type.

Whereas it’s going to take time to find out how, when and the place hydrogen vans will match into the way forward for zero emissions freight, one other shock since NACFE’s earlier stories on the topic is how briskly the know-how is advancing.

“Hydrogen know-how is coming sooner than we anticipated,” Schneider government vice-president Rob Reich wrote within the report. “We might be testing a truck this yr.”


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