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NACFE Releases Fuel Cell Truck Guidance

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) has released an in-depth guidance titled “Making Sense of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Tractors, which reportedly breaks down the challenges, such as developing infrastructure, and enticing benefits, like the extended range, of hydrogen fuel cell technology in the transportation sector.

As Fleet Owner reports:

The findings are available in an 11-page executive summary for a macro view, while fleets and stakeholders further along in their zero-emission journey can develop a more granular strategy through the full 143-page report, which includes 235 references and 102 figures to help distill the cascades of data flowing throughout the study.

“It could have been 10 times as much if we wanted to include everything,” confessed Mike Roeth, NACFE executive director, whose organization had previously released guidance and confidence reports on pure battery-electric trucks, tires, aerodynamics, and autonomous vehicles.

The authors, which included members of NACFE and the Rocky Mountain Institute, began the project with a healthy dose of skepticism on how commercial vehicles could leverage hydrogen fuel cells to eliminate emissions while still turning a profit. Key advantages include hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles’ extended range over direct battery-electric vehicles, as well as the near-unlimited supply of its fuel source — hydrogen.  By the end, they found the advantages afforded by the powertrain will be worth the challenges ahead as the technology attempts to reach maturation. NACFE projects that will happen sometime in the 2030s.

Getting to that point will be no easy task, despite several decades of research and understanding into hydrogen propulsion.

“The costs of hydrogen, vehicles, and hydrogen production all must come down significantly to make hydrogen economically competitive with alternatives,” Roeth said. The report noted “an eight-fold reduction in hydrogen is possible” if enough dominoes fall the right way.

Here are some of NACFE’s final conclusions:

  • Hydrogen fuel cell trucks are just starting to see real-world use and their adoption is being driven by regional or national considerations that are much bigger than what exists for trucking fleets.
  • Battery-electric trucks should be the baseline for HFCEV comparisons, rather than any internal combustion engine alternative.
  • As for all alternatives, fleets should optimize the specifications of HFCEVs for the job they should perform while expecting that the trade cycles will lengthen.
  • The future acceleration of HFCEVs is likely not about the vehicles or the fuelling but more about the creation and distribution of the hydrogen itself.
  • Finally, the potential for autonomous fuel cell trucks to operate 24-hours a day adds significant opportunity for making sense of capital and operational investment in hydrogen.

Full story here.

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