Hydrogen fuel cells to compete with diesel truck engines by 2030: Cummins

June 17, 2021

Hydrogen fuel cell trucks could compete with diesel engine vehicles on a total cost of ownership basis before 2030, the head of new power engineering at engine and generator producer Cummins told S&P Global Platts.

Falling costs of renewable hydrogen and fuel cell production were bringing down the total cost of ownership (TCO) of fuel cell electric trucks, Cummins Vice President for New Power Engineering Jonathan Wood said in an interview June 16.

“We think towards the end of this decade, we will be getting closer to TCO parity with a diesel engine,” Wood said.

“It does depend on region, it does depend on application, it does depend on electricity pricing … but that is the time frame we think we will be getting close on TCO on some heavy-duty applications where we can get to low-cost hydrogen production,” he said.

Wood said the future of heavy-duty land transport would be hydrogen fuel cell or battery electric, as economies sought to meet zero-emission targets. The timing of the transition was uncertain, he said, but noted that diesel would not form a part of the future energy mix in this segment.

Scaling up

US-based Cummins makes 1.3 million internal combustion engines a year, with current volumes giving a large price advantage to diesel trucks.

“If you run a commercial vehicle, the two biggest costs in the total cost of ownership are the price of fuel and the driver,” Wood said.

While fuel cell production was very small, “costs are coming down, the manufacturing supply chain is getting in place, we are starting to see lower-cost materials,” he said.

As well as falling total costs of ownership, fuel availability and grid developments to support the rollout of hydrogen infrastructure would define the success of fuel cells, but Wood was bullish.

“In heavy duty, we think hydrogen will dominate because you have got ease of refueling, and very fast refueling,” Wood said. “You have got range flexibility, duty cycle flexibility, and high levels of efficiency from the fuel cell itself.”

However, battery electric solutions for heavy transport might dominate in urban centers where a centralized charging system and fixed routes made battery infrastructure easier to manage, he said.

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