Hydrogen fuel cell stakeholders have been slow to crack the US market for passenger cars, to say the least. However, the heavy duty truck market is a different story altogether. In the latest development, the fuel cell truck maker Hyzon has successfully completed a test of supercooled, liquid H2 for long haul trucks in the punishing environment of a Texas summer. Green hydrogen could eventually be in the mix, too. After all, it’s Texas.
Liquid (Green) Hydrogen For Fuel Cell Trucks
Green hydrogen or not, fuel cell vehicles run on electric drive, just like their battery-powered cousins. Like battery vehicles, fuel cell vehicles also produce no airborne emissions at the tailpipe.
Unlike batteries, fuel cells do not load up on kilowatts before hitting the road. They generate electricity on-the-go, through a reaction between hydrogen gas and ambient oxygen. The only byproduct is water.
“Gas” is the key word. Storing hydrogen gas under high pressure on a moving vehicle is among the challenges confronting fuel cell fans. The cost of carbon fiber and other materials for the specialized high-pressure storage tanks is one factor keeping fuel cell vehicle costs high.
Various workarounds are emerging, including sponge-like materials for hydrogen storage. Liquefied hydrogen is another route, and that’s where Hyzon is focusing its attention.
Liquid Hydrogen Put To The Test In Texas
CleanTechnica is reaching out to Hyzon to see if they used fossil-sourced hydrogen for their Texas road test, or green hydrogen sourced from water with renewable energy. Either way, it looks like liquid hydrogen is in the company’s future for heavy duty long haul fuel cell trucks.
On August 30, Hyzon reported the results of the liquid hydrogen test run, and the company was very pleased with itself.
Hyzon partnered with the legacy US food distribution company Performance Food Group for the test, which consisted of a 16-hour continuous run covering more than 540 miles with outside temperatures soaring over the 100-degree Fahrenheit mark at times.
At first glance it may seem that a load of liquid hydrogen fuel would weigh more than hydrogen gas, but that is not so according to Hyzon Chief Executive Officer Parker Meeks.
“With increased range and no added weight in comparison to our gaseous hydrogen trucks, we believe this liquid hydrogen demo run has demonstrated potential viability for the future of liquid hydrogen in commercial trucking,” Meeks said in a press statement.
What About The Cost?
The 540-mile trip is just for starters. Meeks anticipates that a commercial version of the company’s 200-kilowatt fuel cell with liquid hydrogen could hit the road for a range of 650-800 miles between fill-ups, helping to meet the all important bar of parity with conventional diesel trucks.
Hyzon also anticipates that liquid hydrogen could beat hydrogen gas on cost at the filling station, with a savings of up to $5 per kilogram.
That probably depends on the filling station. California is currently the only US state with public hydrogen filling stations. Reports of price spikes at some public locations surfaced in September, with the retail cost surging to $36 per kilogram from a recent high of $30, far above the reported price of $13 in 2021.
Presumably, trucking companies with their own private fuel depots or other truck-centrick fueling platforms would have more control over hydrogen fuel costs. That remains to be seen. In the meantime, some fuel cell truck makers are providing free fuel credits to their customers, with the aim of supporting the market for rolling stock until new hydrogen technologies and economies of scale bring fuel costs down.
How Does It Work?
The idea of subbing in liquid hydrogen for the gaseous form seems to be catching on, and it’s a safe bet that other stakeholders have been eyeballing the Texas demonstration. As Hyzon explains, a deep freeze of -400 degrees Fahrenheit provides for a significant increase in energy density, which helps accounts for why the overall weight of the vehicle is not impacted.
Hyzon picked the company Chart Industries to help engineer the cold storage system, including delivery to the fuel cell at the necessary pressure.
“This is a meaningful accomplishment for the hydrogen ecosystem,” observes Chart CEO and President Jill Evanko. “Our investment in our unique cryogenic liquid hydrogen onboard tank and our liquid hydrogen test facility support progress in the hydrogen industry.”
Where Is All The Green Hydrogen?
That’s a good question. Green hydrogen currently accounts for a minuscule fraction — around 1% — of the global hydrogen market. However, it’s a new industry with plenty of room to grow, and Texas has emerged as one of those green hydrogen growth spots (see more Texas green H2 coverage here).
For their liquid hydrogen test, Hyzon partnered with the legacy US gas transportation and storage firm Certarus, which was acquired last spring by the diversified Canadian energy company Superior Plus. Certarus features renewable natural gas in its product line, and its website indicates that green hydrogen is among the rising alternatives.
The liquid hydrogen itself was provided by Air Liquide, a leading global hydrogen stakeholder that has begun transitioning into a more sustainable profile. As part of that effort, Air Liquide is co-leading the Texas-Louisiana HyVelocity Hub, one of several regional teams competing for a share of an $8 billion pot to establish a network of “clean” hydrogen hubs around the US. The initiative is spearheaded by the US Department of Energy with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
That BIL funding is significant because the law stipulates that fossil-sourced hydrogen must feature in part of the overall program. HyVelocity is focusing its efforts in that direction, which is no surprise considering that Chevron is also helping to lead the venture. However, the diversified energy firm GTI Energy is also on board along with the leading wind developer Ørsted, indicating a strong stakeholder interest in green hydrogen as well.
At present, Air Liquide is hedging its green hydrogen ventures with natural gas. However, the local impacts of oils and gas drilling are piling up one after another along with the global impacts of the looming climate crisis. It’s difficult to see how fossil-sourced hydrogen can compete with green hydrogen over the long run, carbon capture or not.
In the meantime, last month Air Liquide announced that it has hooked up with Trillium Energy Solutions (an offshoot of the Love’s travel station conglomerate) on a hydrogen fueling station venture aimed specifically at the heavy duty truck market.
The initial goal of the partnership is a 150-ton per day supply of hydrogen and the capability of refueling more than 2,000 heavy-duty fuel cell trucks. Trillium may have a head start on the green hydrogen angle through its renewable natural gas portfolio, so stay tuned for more on that.
Of course, no news about the energy transition would be complete without a mention of Republican leadership in Congress, or not as the case may be.
At a time when the global economic and military might of the US should be focused squarely on helping its allies — namely, Ukraine and Israel — the Republican-led House of Representatives has been focused squarely on undercutting the very American exceptionalism they purport to champion.
The spectacle of the Republican majority floundering about leaderless like so many flopping fish in suits is beyond belief. Really, who fires the Speaker of the House in the middle of their term? Nobody, ever, that’s who.
The Senate is no better. For example, now would be a good time for Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama to drop his hold on hundreds of military promotions. That’s just one example. If you can think of others, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Note: On September 26, Hyzon announced an agreement to a $25 million settlement in resolution of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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Photo (screenshot): Hydrogen fuel cell truck during a 540-mile test run in Texas, courtesy of Hyzon.
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