- Cummins and Navistar will collaborate on a Class 8 truck powered by hydrogen fuel cells, the two companies announced Wednesday.
- The prototype truck will see a year-long field test after development, the companies said. Werner will add the truck to its fleet and use it in regional and local delivery operations out of Fontana, California.
- The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will partially fund the project, with plans to develop "affordable hydrogen production, storage, distribution and use." DOE has made two awards to Cummins of about $7 million combined to fund research into a fuel-cell electric powertrain for Class 8 trucks.
The green technology market is of two minds, with some, including Daimler Trucks CEO Roger Nielsen, believing battery-electric trucks are the future, while others have their sights set on hydrogen.
Electric trucks are considered ideal for drayage and regional runs, according to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency. NACFE issued a report in August that found electric models were feasible for short-haul runs in Southern California, Northern California, Cascadia (the Northwest), the Northeast, the Texas Triangle and the Front Range (the Denver region).
But much of trucking is long haul. And range for electric trucks is limited. Recharging also takes hours.
Fuel-cell trucks have longer range, if they can reach the next fueling station. And the refueling of hydrogen takes as little as 10 minutes. Cummins said the ideal range for the truck developed with Navistar would be 300 miles or more, with competitive refueling costs compared to diesel.
Cummins said it has experience with hydrogen fuel-cells, with more than 2,000 such systems in use today in buses and other vehicles. As for Navistar and Werner, both have experience with battery-electric vehicles. In January, Werner incorporated an electric truck into its regional Southern California fleet.
The hydrogen plans are perhaps the biggest step for Navistar, which so far has not introduced a Class 8 zero-emission truck. In October 2019, Navistar introduced a medium-duty electric model, first showing fleets the truck at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show. Navistar will kick off production of the medium-duty electric truck in early 2021.
The big issue is hydrogen fueling stations. But state governments are increasingly using grants to lure private business into building the stations.
In September, the California Energy Commission awarded almost $116 million to expand hydrogen refueling systems in the state. Among the proposed recipients was Shell's Equilon Enterprises, also known as Shell Hydrogen, which could get nearly $41 million.
Nikola, which promotes the use of hydrogen fuel cells, said during its Q3 earnings call that officials are confident about demand, given the likely priorities of President-elect Joe Biden. State-level and other efforts to curb emissions "can only accelerate" under Biden's administration, CEO Mark Russell told investors and analysts. Nikola CFO Kim Brady said he expects greater federal participation in green initiatives.