Is heavy-duty fuel cell trucking almost ready for prime time?

February 23, 2021

Demonstration projects and investments suggest greater acceptance. Blank check companies are raising hundreds of millions of dollars to target startup and growth-stage companies across the electric vehicle spectrum. Publicly traded fuel cell entities are riding double- and triple-digit growth in their share prices. “I think there is significant momentum,” Chris Rovik, executive program manager of Toyota North America’s Advanced Product Planning Office, told FreightWaves in an interview. “I think all the truck [manufacturers] realize they need to have zero-emission solutions. They’re starting to understand the benefits of fuel cells in certain use cases.” As a vehicle importer to the West Coast for decades, Toyota has mature port operations and access to hydrogen fueling. Toyota introduced its Project Portal proof-of-concept fuel cell truck in 2017. It occupied the body of a Kenworth T660. A beta version appeared in 2019 and was the basis for the 10-truck Project Ocean demonstration fleet.

Fuel cells used in transportation typically depend on proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology. Cummins has the largest hydrogen-making PEM electrolyzer in the world. It is working on the first fuel cell-powered zero-emissions commercial ferry in North America. And It has supplied fuel cells for buses in Asia and to rail giant Alstom for use in passenger trains in Austria. “While hydrogen fuel cell technology is very promising, we know that widespread adoption will take time,” said Amy Davis, president of Cummins’ New Power unit.

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