Hyundai To Lead US Market For Hydrogen Fuel Cell Trucks

Hydrogen has long been touted as a potential fuel of the future. While it’s failed to catch on in cars as batteries have taken a strong lead, it still holds great promise for larger vehicles like trucks.

Hyundai have been working diligently in this space over the last few years, with its Xcient line of fuel-cell powered trucks. It’s set to dominate the world of hydrogen trucking in the US as it brings a fleet of vehicles to California next year.

California, Here We Come

Batteries have only just become small and light enough to suit electric cars. They don’t quite scale up for trucking applications just yet, but hydrogen may offer a compelling alternative. Credit: Hyundai

Two separate projects will see Hyundai bring 35 trucks in total to California in 2023. 30 examples will go to work in the NorCal Zero project, to be operated by logistics company Glovis America. They will be put into service at the Port of Oakland. A further five examples will be put to work by First Element Fuel (FEF), currently the largest hydrogen refuelling operator in the United States. In this role, Hyundai’s trucks will be used to distribute liquified hydrogen fuel to the company’s network of refuelling stations. The trucks will operate in a demonstration role for the first year, with reports made to the EPA, with four years of commercial operations to follow.

Hyundai already has plenty of experience building hydrogen-powered tractor units for semi-trailers. The company has run a fleet of 47 trucks in Switzerland since 2020. Over the last two years, that fleet has racked up a total of over five million miles of driving, with the trucks hauling loads in general logistics, manufacturing, and retail fulfilment. The initial fleet of XCIENT Fuel Cell 6×4 tractor units featured a pair of fuel cells putting out 90 kW each, for a total of 180 kW output. The fuel cells are combined with a 72 kWh battery, which is of roughly the same size you’d find in one of Hyundai’s electric SUVs. The battery helps provide extra power for the drivetrain where needed, with the XCIENT featuring  a motor that can deliver 350 kW and a mighty 2,237 Nm of torque. The first generation of trucks had a range of approximately 400 km (280 miles) when filled with 31 kg of hydrogen, and could be refuelled in roughly 8-20 minutes, depending on the ambient temperature.

Hyundai’s fleet of 47 fuel-cell trucks have become a common sight in Switzerland, having racked up 5 million kilometres in just two years. Credit: Hyundai

For the big push into California, though, Hyundai has made upgrades to give the XCIENT trucks longer range. The fuel cells and motor remain the same, but the hydrogen tanks have been upgraded to hold up to 67 kg of fuel. This should provide the trucks with range on the order of 724 km (450 miles) per fill. The Class 8 trucks will have a gross combined weight of 37,200 kg, though Hyundai has not specified the exact payload figures.

Why Hydrogen, Though?

Electric cars have trounced fuel-cell vehicles over the last few years. Millions of battery-electric cars are now being sold every year. When it comes to the big side of town, though, electric drive hasn’t yet penetrated the trucking market. Strides are being made, but the problem remains one of scale. Engineers have been able to eke out the desired range figures for modern electric cars by relying on gigantic, heavy batteries. When it comes to trucks, the size of batteries required becomes punishingly large, often cutting into the payload weight the truck is being built to haul in the first place. Then there’s the problem of actually flowing enough energy to recharge such a huge battery in a reasonable amount of time.

Hyundai’s competition will be from battery-electric trucks like the Tesla Semi. Tesla’s current claim to fame is a recent 500-mile test run hauling a full payload, but Hyundai’s trucks have been racking up millions of miles in testing for the last two years. Credit: Tesla

In this area, hydrogen fuel cells hold promise. A great deal of energy can be stored in a relatively-light amount of hydrogen. Plus, refuelling can be done relatively quickly. Pumping more hydrogen simply takes a bit longer.  It doesn’t scale as badly as recharging a large battery, where higher power delivery is required, along with large uprated cables and connectors. While storage and refuelling of hydrogen was once a difficult proposition, the last decade has seen companies like Toyota and Hyundai invest in maturing the technology.

The fast refuelling time is really the key to hydrogen’s potential in the trucking world. There isn’t an electric vehicle on Earth that can add 727 kilometers of range in under an hour. Even if there was, it would likely require cabling and connectors rated for a megawatt or more. However, with hydrogen, Hyundai can offer quick refuelling and long range while keeping emissions clean and green.

The other issue is weight. Semis can carry whatever they want up to the aforementioned gross 37,200 kg for Class 8 trucks. Weight carried in batteries directly competes with cargo, and while Tesla still hasn’t released any weight data, it’s likely that battery weight alone is in the 10,000 kg – 15,000 kg range. Compared with a fuel load of 67 kg of hydrogen, even if there is significant weight reduction in the cab and the motors, that hits haulers in the bottom line.

Hydrogen may yet be the ideal solution for cleaning up the heavy truck fleets of the world. That may be via fuel cell trucks, or perhaps via hydrogen-burning combustion engines which aren’t quite as clean. Challenges remain around the production of hydrogen from clean sources, though they’re not insurmountable. As for the lack of refuelling stations, it’s not as big a deal for commercial operators, which are often in the habit of refuelling from specific depots already.

Hyundai has big plans for hydrogen trucks in the future, too. The XCIENT trucks are designed for mass production, and the company hopes to have as many as 1600 in service in Europe by 2025. Big numbers could also end up coming to the US if the company’s upcoming California trials go well and catch the right attention.

 

95 thoughts on “Hyundai To Lead US Market For Hydrogen Fuel Cell Trucks

  1. I’ve recently thrown out dozen of pop-science books for children; those books were from early 1990s. Back then hydrogen cars were also called the future and would replace regular ICEs in the next 5-10 years. Let’s see how it goes this time.

    1. It likely never will.

      The round trip efficiency of storing energy in hydrogen is lackluster to say the least. (even when one sources the hydrogen from natural gas. Not that steam reformation of methane means that one has “clean fossil free” power. And electrolysis is far less efficient…)

      And the energy density of hydrogen is likewise rather low. And the required pressure tanks don’t really make it all that light weight in the end regardless.

      Not to mention that most fuel cells are a bit “fragile” as far as air pollutants goes and low power density. Yet two more things stacking against hydrogen.

      In the end.
      It makes more sense for an EV charging station to have some localized energy storage to smooth out grid strain. And simply opt for decently fast charging there. Like even a few minutes stop to stretch one’s legs a bit can recharge a lot.

      Or just use overhead wiring on more well trafficked routes. (something we have seen HaD talk about before.)

      Or just rebuild the train network again and send more freight that way.

      1. Rebuild a train network? Are you daft! That is an actually good idea that can’t possibly happen for all the NIMBYism! Cost more to make a short rail line these days than fly around the moon…

        Also much as I think trains should be getting a great deal more use not everywhere is geologically well suited to underground trains or geographically well suited to overground and a train is only really useful if you run it well loaded most of the time. That last one could be a real killer for passenger use, actually getting people to change their lifestyle a little is going to be challenging.

        1. The US reluctance to train will undoubtedly fix itself.

          Growing economies are outbidding the US for oil. If China recovers from COVID then even higher fuel prices. Americans will start to wonder if busses could be connected together on their own traffic routes.

          1. The tradeoff for cheaper commuting via train/bus/tram is higher property and land prices, because with fixed transport infrastructure everybody wants to be as close to the stops as possible and businesses elsewhere lose customers and workers.

          2. Only if you don’t actually do it well Dude – a well constructed public transport network means almost everywhere has good links to almost everywhere else. So land value won’t be massively effected – and infact land prices can often be much much lower near the primary hub of transport links as the noise and smell of 10000000 people worth of train and buss per hour isn’t great, and generally its not pretty either… (add or remove zero’s as required, and note I’m talking capacity not actually number of passengers per hour every hour of every day – your 7-9am rush to get into work might overcrowd even the extended services running at that hour, but to keep the whole network running in a manageable way its still got to move around emptier carriages the rest of the time)

            You will see that certain things won’t exist everywhere or perhaps move around some – just because you have a good links doesn’t mean it is fast/convenient/high capacity enough link to your specific clients to make up for putting the business in stupid locations, like putting your ‘n star’ restaurant in the middle of the dockyard that won’t have any people interested in spending so much for a pretentious meal nearby, but perhaps a handful of dock workers…

          3. > almost everywhere has good links to almost everywhere else

            Which implies you have a dense network with lots of buses/trams/trains and roads/tracks going all over the place at all hours of the day, which dilutes the number of passengers per vehicle and mile of infrastructure and obliterates the efficiency of the system.

            In other words, what would be the point?

          4. >make up for putting the business in stupid locations

            Supermarkets and malls located by highways in the middle of empty fields out-competed mom & pop shops in the inner cities because of social planners who hated cars and tried to “reclaim” cities for pedestrians by narrowing and blocking off roads for cars, or simply refused to develop the road infrastructure under the theory that public transportation will solve the problem.

            Lower property/land prices outside of the city and easier logistics meant cheaper prices, which is why Walmart thrives and your corner shop closed down in debt even though it is in a “prime location”. The jobs went there as well, since you can’t build a factory where you can’t drive an 18-wheeler in and out to carry the materials and goods. As a result, the people left in the cities within reach of public transportation are either highly paid white-collar specialists who would not even step of a bus, or poor service workers trying to make ends meet with social welfare or flipping burgers and cleaning offices for the rich folk.

          5. You really don’t have to over saturate everything for good links to everywhere, to get folks to use public transport it simple needs to be a usefully sized network that can take you where you need to go and have no social stigma attached to it (only poor and particularly poor pensioner with their free bus pass use bus, so I must take my own vehicle everywhere mentality). Plus you don’t have to run a train/bus every 5 mins on every route all day! Peak times you have that, rest of the day you only need 10, 15, 20, 30 mins or even a whole hour between that routes repeats, as if the network is at all sane between that hourly service is another few hourly services that can get you to more major hubs that will run all day at a more rapid cadence…

            Nothing wrong with out of town locations, and they are often well served by public transport here, as well as often enough to be meaningful also having the same carpark act serve the park and ride to get into the city centers.

            Round here the ‘prime’ locations that die are almost entirely because the rates are stupidly high, with a pair of small side dish of haviing the big chain open up right next door and deliberatey undersell you taking losses till you die or of a business in the wrong place, that has no customers left anymore in the age of online shopping – that corner convince store, the small supermarket offshoot are not the usual victims there, they are still too useful. It is stuff like the Remote Control hobby, the model train, the art supply store – all the stuff that even the serious customers will only visit once or twice a month before the internet and now will only visit once a year – That one time when they really need to see something new with their own eyes rather than just order their usual brand of faux water effect, paper, ink or glitter from Amazon (etc)…

      1. Not really stupid, its got engineering challenges to overcome same as everything else…
        And as hydrogen is so darn common it is rather easy to source (and yes I am including fossil fuel sources) and burns cleanly with no harmful emissions (from the fuel itself anyway, generating some NOx from the air tech is possible in ICE type usecase) its got some clear advantages too!

        You could equally argue petrol/diesel/LNG is stupid for different but still inherent and unavoidable reasons.

        That said I am not yet sold that hydrogen will really be a common thing in my lifetime. But the potential is there and just producing water and perhaps a little NOx is a powerful reason to push towards making it happen, the downsides of reduced energy density are really not that major – which in many ways the reasonably fast and successful EV adoptions shows as battery don’t have great energy density either, and the generation/storage is clearly not an impossible problem.

        1. It’s a pie in the sky, but it gets subsidies and funding from the usual suspects, so people do it anyways.

          I could get some hydrogen related funding just as well – just have to claim some plausible bullshit to “research” and then say “nope, didn’t work / couldn’t figure it out.” and they’re happy. “Needs further investigation.”

          1. >pie in the sky,
            By that argument so was the steam engine, Internal combustion, and probably just about everything else all the way back to agriculture! Its an idea with some clear merits and a whole slew of new problems to figure out – Its the nature of anything ‘new’ to need funding and experimentation and then in 10, 20, 100 years time its suddenly everywhere!

            > claim some plausible bullshit to “research”…
            How research is funded I can agree seems rather more about how many of the current crop of Buzzwords you can fit in the proposal than anything sensible. But what a suprise when the folks handing out the money generally have no science background at all – bean counters no doubt are useful but these days they seem have largely taken over decision making for decisions they can’t comprehend far to often. (Well them and design/marketing committee – but those are for things a little beyond the research phase)

          2. >Its the nature of anything ‘new’

            The difference between the “hydrogen economy” and something like the internal combustion or the steam engine is that a single person could make a proof-of-concept and show that it has merit – that it works and offers clear advantages – whereas millions of researchers worldwide have been trying to develop the hydrogen economy for decades, and nothing has come of it.

          3. No single person (excluding the handful of already super rich than can throw enough money around to shame most nations GDP) can prove an economy, as that requires agreement of the politician, licensing bodies etc – they can only prove the technology. Which then might lead to an economy if you get the right people interested.

            So by comparison to the other technology mentioned ‘The hydrogen economy’ was perfectly well proven as possible long long long ago, the tech worked. Worked rather better and more conveniently in fact than the early steam or internal combustion engine lead its peers – it has been practically a drop in replacement with many clear benefits even way back then when it was kinda primitive – no more generation of the city smog peasouper and all that acid rain, less folks getting into breathing trouble, and city that are not covered in a layer of oily grime 5 mins after the cleaner went past…

            Its only not happened because nobody wanted to pay for it to happen, and lots of established industries were actively lobbying to make sure it couldn’t happen, as it hurts their profit margins… I’m not saying it was ever the only sane possible technology to use, with such huge benefits over its rivals no amount of inertia could keep it down, but the actual tech required to make a hydrogen economy technically possible is older than I am… Its only the lack of desire to make it happen that has meant it couldn’t happen, in the same way new nuclear power stations have been rather thin on the ground or personal solar generation tied to the grid was impossible/pointless. Under the current circumstances that is changing.

          1. Not really, lots of things run on gaseous fuels, and some run on solid (or at least practically solid in the case of heavy fuel oil) at room temp and pressure fuels…

            The only thing being liquid does for you is allow you to pour and pump the stuff without any seal at all – a little more convenient to move than the solid/basically solid stuff and a little less engineering of sufficiently good seals and valves required than for gaseous fuels.

          2. >Not really

            The further away you go from “liquid at room temperature”, the more inconvenient it gets. Bunker fuel needs to be heated to boiling before it flows into the engine, and LPG needs to be stored under pressure, which limits the portability etc.

            Before the invention of gasoline, people tried to make engines run on coal dust and even nitro-cellulose, because the only available and cheap fuel for small and lightweight Otto-style engines was “town gas” which was methane and carbon monoxide, which couldn’t be compressed enough at the time to serve as a portable fuel. Ethanol would have worked, but it was too expensive to manufacture.

    2. As a trucker if I had to choose between hydrogen or an electric truck, I’d go with hydrogen for the simple fact that it won’t require every space in the truckstop to be torn up to add truck electrification. An another thing, if you’ve ever been to a truck stop parking lot you’ll notice everything gets destroyed or damaged so anything put in won’t last very long, kinda like the individual cable boxes that were put in the parking lots around 2000, they never worked because people break stuff when they’re bored.

      1. So adding chargers = won’t work because it requires construction
        but
        Adding hydrogen tanks & infrastructure = no problem?

        Because I know which of these sounds like more work and harder to maintain and it’s not the electric one.

        1. Actually I agree with Robert here a hydrogen filling station is no different to a regular petrol station really – tank full of go juice buried away from harm and a pile of little pumps that can rapidly dispense as much as the target wants.

          Electra-chemical battery will I suspect always need a slower charge than that, currently for truck scale batteries its hours vs seconds – so that is a great deal of electrical box to fit and maintain over a wide area.

    3. What happens when the batteries and fuel cells are spent at end of life are they recyclable ? How much energy and waste goes into making batteries vs. fuel cells?

      Making fuel cells uses less environmental waste and energy and fuel cells are easily recyclable and even can be rebuilt to be use again.

      Manufacturing batteries uses more waste and energy and recycling batteries is very difficult.

      Hydrogen may not be as energy dense as EV batteries but considering the process to make them and their recyclability and if we use green energy or the newly discovered fusion energy to create Hydrogen, it may be more sustainable in the long run vs EV batteries. We have to consider and put a real cost on environmental waste pollution from starting point to the end of life of the product.

    4. You shouldve had a formal book-burning event. And lets start burning any brochure espousing the need to reduce our carbon footprint. And we better get started cremating the estimated 996 million cows on this planet too, that’ll take some time! But we all first have to decide just how seriously we intend to do something about fixing our planet. Amusing as the thought may be, cutting CO2 just aint gonna do it!

  2. 67 kg of hydrogen contains approximately 2.2 MWh of energy (heating value), and the require tank volume would be about 3000 liters or 3 cubic meters plus shielding at 300 Bars. One could do better using liquid hydrogen, but not by much: 1 cubic meter plus insulation. The trouble is, there is no pressure vessel that can hold back liquid hydrogen from boiling, so it has to vent continuously and lose hydrogen to stay liquid. How quickly depends on how much insulation you add around the tank, which largely cancels the volumetric advantage of liquid hydrogen.

    Curiously, the limiting factor for “recharging” a hydrogen pressure tank is heat. When the pressure builds up, it gets hot. Steel or aluminum tanks will not do, since hydrogen diffuses into the metal and makes it brittle, so carbon fiber composites are required to hold the very high pressure. Heating the composite tank makes the binding resin go soft, so the tank may burst if filled too quickly. The pressure cycles also “age” the tank mechanically much like charge-cycling a battery, so it has to be replaced every so often.

    1. In contrast, compressed natural gas (CNG) contains about 3.8 times the energy at the same pressure and volume compared to hydrogen, so if they were to fuel the trucks with methane instead of hydrogen – and fuel cells burning methane exist as well – they would get away with smaller tanks or safer pressures and no need for special composite tanks that age because methane doesn’t diffuse through steel. It’s also much less explosive.

      CNG is available as a fossil fuel, so no supply problems there. Even the distribution infrastructure is already in place so there are no transition issues, and it can also be manufactured from clean sources such as surplus wind and solar power when such technology matures and becomes cheap. The only issue is the “No CO2 at the tailpipe” -fetish of the social planners that makes it impossible to use the more sensible option.

      1. Hydrogen at 900 bar has a density of 46.8 kg/m^3, giving a total of about 4.68 GJ/m^3

        Methane (natural-/bio-gas) is a lot easier to carry. Being some 96 kg/m^3 at 120 bar (typical CNG pressure). And with 55 MJ/kg it packs a fair amount of energy at nearly 5.28 GJ/m^3.

        Ethane meanwhile liquefies at about 40-45 bar depending on ambient temperature, storing about 360 kg/m^3. With an energy density of 50 MJ/kg it stores an impressive 18 GJ/m^3.

        Hydrogen is quite lackluster compared to the alternatives.

        And generating ethane from methane is easily done with the Wurtz reaction, and at a fairly decent efficiency. (where some of the losses is just the creation of other even longer hydrocarbons.)

      2. Care to explain why continuing to emit CO2 and heat up the planet even more is ‘the more sensible option’?
        It’s not social scientists calling for CO2 reduction – it’s literally all scientists.
        CNG is just ignoring the problem. Using natural gas to produce hydrogen is too, but at least when you get the hydrogen infrastructure, you can distribute hydrogen produced by electrolysis. Yes, that is inefficient, but even with the small currently installed base of solar power, there is already sometimes a surplus of energy, causing local solar arrays to drop off the grid and do nothing. Better to create hydrogen with that power, than to do nothing. But you do need a distribution system for that hydrogen.

        1. “Care to explain why continuing to emit CO2 and heat up the planet even more is ‘the more sensible option’?”

          Care to explain your certainty that that will happen in a catastrophic way?

          Verification, Validation, and Confirmation of Numerical Models in the Earth Sciences
          Naomi Oreskes; Kristin Shrader-Frechette; Kenneth Belitz
          Science, New Series, Vol. 263, No. 5147. (Feb. 4, 1994), pp. 641-646

          https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c6e1/385abc386c3519175e34ea3c0a68da8b540c.pdf

          Excerpts:

          Verification and validation of numerical models of natural systems is impossible. This is because natural systems are never closed and because model results are always non-unique. Models can be confirmed by the demonstration of agreement between observation and prediction, but confirmation is inherently partial. Complete confirmation is logically precluded by the fallacy of affirming the consequent and by incomplete access to natural phenomena. Models can only be evaluated in relative terms, and their predictive value is always open to question. The primary value of models is heuristic.

          Numerical models are increasingly being used in the public arena, in some cases to justify highly controversial decisions. Therefore, the implication of truth is a serious matter. The terms verification and validation are now being used by scientists in ways that are contradictory and misleading. In the earth sciences-hydrology, geochemistry, meteorology, and oceanography-numerical models always represent complex open systems in which the operative processes are incompletely understood and the required empirical input data are incompletely known. Such models can never be verified.

          1. Climate Models Of Incompetence
            By Dr. Duane Theresher – 6 Feb 2019

            https://climatechangedispatch.com/climate-models-incompetence/

            Excerpts:

            NCAR is a premier climate modeling institution in the world with one of the most famous climate models, which at the time was called the Community Climate Model (CCM).

            My code is still in CCM (or whatever warm fuzzy new name they yet again gave it). It even has my name on it; look at the code here and search for Thresher (and note that they even misspelled my first name once).

            Climate scientists are not programmers. I’m unique in that respect. Climate scientists also don’t want to do the hard work — taking courses and getting degrees — to become programmers. UA/NCAR was my epiphany that climate scientists’ IT incompetence was destroying climate science.

            After my M.S. from UA/NCAR, I fled to Columbia University and NASA GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies), in New York City, for a Ph.D.

            I thought that going to a famous private university like Columbia and a famous organization like NASA would improve the climate modeling situation. I could not have been more wrong; it made it worse, much worse.

          2. Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
            John P. A. Ioannidis – 2005

            https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124

            There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field… ***Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.*** In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.

            MAY 21, 2021
            A new replication crisis: Research that is less likely to be true is cited more

            https://phys.org/news/2021-05-replication-crisis-true-cited.html

            Papers in leading psychology, economic and science journals that fail to replicate and therefore are less likely to be true are often the most cited papers in academic research, according to a new study by the University of California San Diego’s Rady School of Management.

            In psychology, only 39 percent of the 100 experiments successfully replicated. In economics, 61 percent of the 18 studies replicated as did 62 percent of the 21 studies published in Nature/Science.

        2. CO2 in itself does nothing. It’s there anyways. The point is transitioning from adding more CO2 to net zero.

          >CNG is just ignoring the problem. Using natural gas to produce hydrogen is too, but at least when you get the hydrogen infrastructure, you can distribute hydrogen produced by electrolysis.

          Yes, and you can produce methane by electrolytic synthesis as well, and it needs no new infrastructure to deal with – just expanding what already works. That’s the point: power-to-gas and power-to-liquid technologies enable the shift from net positive CO2 to net zero CO2 without changing the underlying infrastructure overnight, which saves a whole bunch of money and time, and enables a smooth transition using existing hardware which does not need to be scrapped.

          Hydrogen would require replacing the entire distribution network and the end-user hardware with technology that is more expensive and has worse technical performance, which is why practically nobody is doing it – only “researching” it endlessly – just for the sake of a pipe-dream zero CO2 at the tailpipe, which doesn’t even matter in the end.

    2. The “myth” that hydrogen makes steel and other metals brittle is both true and not.

      If the steel is liquid, like when welding or casting it. Then yes it will very happily dissolve lots of hydrogen and later become very brittle when solid.

      When the steel is cold, like bellow a couple of hundred or so degrees C, then it doesn’t have much interest to dissolve hydrogen. Same for aluminium.

      So the tank wouldn’t be at any major risk.

      But yes, hydrogen embrittlement can still happen at room temperature. But the process is quite slow and mainly only happening at the surface.

      If steel were happily dissolving sufficiently significant amounts of hydrogen to embrittle within even a few months under a 100% hydrogen atmosphere. Then it would be hard to use steel when building ultra high vacuum chambers, since the partial pressure of hydrogen inside the chamber would effectively make the steel outgas hydrogen at a fairly decent rate. Good luck even getting to ultra high vacuum if that were the case.

      And it isn’t like these chambers perform worse when heated to 300 C as part of normal operations. (the bake out procedure is to drive off any “stuck” gases from the chamber’s internal surfaces, else this surface film will slowly evaporate over days/months, and that is a major annoyance to whatever procedure one is conducting.)

      So no.
      Hydrogen embrittlement wouldn’t practically happen for a solid piece of metal at any realistic temperature for the application.

      However, a bit of moisture while welding can easily provide the necessary hydrogen for the joint to become brittle. (so it isn’t uncommon for people to stumble over the issue.)

      1. > the process is quite slow and mainly only happening at the surface.

        At the surface, under stress, particularly where there are stress concentration points like weld seams, which happens when you have a tank compressed to extreme pressures.

        Molecular hydrogen isn’t the problem, it’s when there is some chemical reaction that splits the molecular bond to free atomic hydrogen, which readily dissolves into the metal even at room temperature. When there are already surface cracks in the metal, the crack tip has a high stress concentration and a high electrical charge concentration which can act as a chemical catalytic site under high hydrogen concentration (high pressure). Hydrogen makes the cracks in the metal propagate easier and faster. This is called Hydrogen enhanced localised plasticity (HELP) and Hydrogen enhanced decohesion (HEDE).

        Steels with low tensile strength are usually not susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement, but UHS and other modern hardened steels can experience dramatic failures. It’s exactly these steels that are needed to make the very high pressure hydrogen tanks and pipes, unless you want to make them an inch thick.

        1. True, that is an area where room temperature embrittlement can happen. (Though, most people think hydrogen embrittles all metals all the time, something it just doesn’t.)

          But regardless, hydrogen isn’t an all that ideal energy storage medium. Mainly due to its very low energy density.

          1. > But regardless, hydrogen isn’t an all that ideal energy storage medium. Mainly due to its very low energy density.

            True, but its also so damn common its not hard to get, burns clean and can still be refilled quickly – even if you believe “V8 for everyone the bigger the better, use fossil fuels for everything!” eventually those will run out as it is a finite supply. So when you have to eventually go synthesis of some sort to generate your portable fuel why not choose the one that doesn’t produce toxic smog clouds out the back end.

          2. I don’t know where the supposed belief of “V8 for everyone the bigger the better, use fossil fuels for everything!” supposedly comes from.

            Yes, hydrogen in my opinion isn’t a good fuel. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t many other alternatives available.

            Now, generally speaking, a mix of solutions is generally the real solution.

            Biogas is a decent contender for more remote journeys due to its relatively high energy density at marginal weight, and still has the fast refueling times.

            Rail/trains is better for more well traveled routes, especially long distance. Much annual freight isn’t needed for a rail line to be economical. (However, a lot of countries avoided building/maintaining rail during the cold war, since rail is fairly sensitive and hard to defend. Unless one is following MAD, then defense doesn’t matter and rail is common as mud, just look at the Soviet union at the time.)

            Batteries are decent for shorter distances, and local distribution. But has some weight issues.

            In the end I don’t think we should burn more fossil fuels.
            But hydrogen is not a good solution.

            As an industrial gas it has some uses in some processes. But as an energy storage medium it is frankly inept, especially in the transport industry. It is frankly nothing but marketing hype and uneducated politics.

          3. That V8’s for everyone was really aimed at you specifically, just my way of saying for those folks that think we can do anything to any extent we like and never find a bill to pay for doing so…

            I do agree otherwise, at least almost entirely – As I can see hydrogen being a perfectly good fuel – yes its not stupidly energy dense but nor are battery and lots of folks are making them work just fine. So the promise of near instant re-charging hydrogen can offer with the high efficiencies at least plausible in Fuel-cell-electric drivetrains seem like a good way of having almost all the convenience of fossil fuels and BatteryEV and none of the downsides (at the vehicle at least – actual generation and shipping of hydrogen still needs more work – but neither look impossible to find good solutions for).

            I’m not saying its the only possible solution or anything like that, but in terms of current material science type limits its one that looks very plausible still. Ammonia for instance is way way nastier to have leaking out all over the place or in an accident – still a viable enough option to be worth thinking on and researching, but currently has rather more giant problems to deal with before it would make a sane day to day fuel. And its much the same thing when looking at synthetic long chain hydrocarbons completely fails to address the nasty crap coming out the exhaust and has huge problems in the generation side that look to be rather further from remotely practical or scalable for real operation.

          4. Once you have hydrogen, it’s relatively simple to mash it up with CO2 and make any hydrocarbon chemical.

            The issue isn’t even the efficiency of doing so, but the price. At current world fuel prices, especially after tax, the cost of CO2 capture and synthesis of e.g. gasoline is easily competitive with fossil fuels.

        2. So why not paint the steel tank? If you filter the hydrogen like you would any fuel, but between the full point and the tank, the lining should be free from contaminants and so some kind of lining should be feasible in a steel tank? I’d there a reason this isn’t economical or practical?

          1. Assuming that there exists a paint that can resist atomic hydrogen, go ahead! although if it flakes in one space, then the tank will burst within a short matter of time. Paint doesn’t just magically repel everything you throw at it, and it is much weaker than any kind of structural metal.

          2. Paints are generally not all that gas tight.

            But there is contenders here of course. But hydrogen is good at seeping in through anything that isn’t having an atomically perfect surface. And even then, it can wiggle its way through some crystal lattices.

            Hydrogen isn’t that far off from the escape artist known as helium.

            However, hydrogen embrittlement isn’t really a short term problem regardless.

  3. Nice write-up.

    Trucking companies can also plan for and amortize maintenance better than car owners. Which includes replacing mobile hydrogen storage tanks as required by their relatively short usable life of ten years.

  4. Hydrogen fuel cells are a better power source for vehicles than batteries, energy density, full stop. The only reason electric vehicles are outselling hydrogen ones is because we lack a hydrogen filling station infrastructure. This work with the trucks is great, but for hydrogen fuel cells to show their potential we don’t need more vehicle development of them, fuel celled vehicles are already a matured technology, we need large scale work on a hydrogen filling station infrastructure, perhaps a hydrogen pump added to every existing petrol station would be a good start.

    1. The gaseous fuel is the main drawback to hydrogen, and is the part of the system that everyone overlooks.

      Storing it, moving it, transporting it. All are difficult and costly (energy wise) to do.

      I’ve not witnessed a large compressed hydrogen tank get filled, but imagine if it’s anything like large CNG tanks it will loud l, hot, and slow. Maybe something like 30+ mins. You could recharge a battery a decent about in that time, given the proper charger

    1. Is driving with one hand not a safety issue? Surely both hands on the wheel would have been a better example for us all. Pretty sure this guy would fail his driving test in the UK at least.

        1. I think they test like they actually mean it over there. When I did my (US) driver’s test, I just had to listen to some old guy’s rambling religious sermon and then parallel park, navigate a 4-way stop without any traffic. Basically nothing at all. Luckily I’d been driving since I was about eleven so nbd

        1. When driving a manual transmission, one won’t keep one’s hand on the gear shifter unless one is actively changing gear. (there is an urban ledged that this causes additional wear on the gearbox due to the applied pressure, but I suspect this to be largely false.)

          So most of the time both hands are on the wheel.

          1. The shifter fork experiences wear on some manual transmissions when you are push / pulling on the shifter when it is in gear. On some the leading / trailing edge of the syncro dogs wear as they are softer than the gears. Depends on the gearbox design as to what you wear. But i will say it takes a long time to see that accelerated wear. Second or third owner problem on average.

          2. I myself follow the rule of “better safe than sorry”. So if the clutch is engaged, then the hand is off the stick.

            Though, nice to know a reason for why the urban ledged is potentially true in some instances.

            It is after all an additional force applied to the mechanism that it most likely weren’t intended to see long term, especially since the parts responsible for shifting the gears around aren’t supposed to shift the gears under load. (this has been my reasoning for why it most likely is bad.)

          3. I put my car into cruise control, lane following guidance, and it’s just like autonomous driving. Look ma, no hands. Ten and two is for wimps. I can see it already, the Geico AI cops will bump my rates next go round.

      1. Guessing he’d fail a test you don’t sound like you’ve taken… very few people drive with both hands on the wheel all the time and (condition/situation dependent) it’s not unsafe.

        After all, you have to take one hand off to shift gear.

  5. I’m sure California will find some way to regulate this into oblivion and ruin it for the rest of the country.

    I sincerely hope Hyundai engineers can make the mini-max equations work on this and get more efficiency out of their fuel cells, but they picked a terrible place to demo the tech. Miami, Houston, Charleston, DC, Seattle/Tacoma, even Savannah would be a better option.

    1. The Port of Los Angeles is the closest to Hyundai, so lower shipping costs. And the Hyundai USA corporate offices are in Fountain Valley, California. Let’s just assume that they know what they’re doing when it comes to navigating California’s legislature.

  6. Ammonia carries more hydrogen (NH3) is easy to transport and store. There is already an infrastructure in place. Just don’t short the farmers on their supply. The only other fuel that could replace gasoline that has had little research is Butanol.

    1. What about methanol? I saw a concept where you stick a methanol generation plant next to a nuclear power station, one of the big selling points they were pushing was that it can use the same distribution and storage systems already in place for gasoline.

      Found this interesting infographic whilst trying to find my original source. Seems like the marine transport industry is looking at methanol as a replacement to their heavy fuel oil.

      https://assets.ctfassets.net/mivicpf5zews/7l8Y7W9mG5jVyYQxaayORx/7cabadfb32934c033b30b977af95ba4c/Methanol.pdf

        1. True but how do the effects differ between a spill of methanol and a spill of petrol or diesel?

          People appear to get distracted by the “face-value” technobabble. We have a target (decarbonisation) but some people don’t seem to realise that it’s a journey of an unknown number of steps. There is no single step that will work, unless you have a literal blank check, in which case fill yer boots with Musk-brand snake oil :-)

  7. Whenever there is discussion of hydrogen storage there is always mention of pressure of this, cryogenics of that. That’s fine, but it seems to me that we always miss a reference to solid-state hydrogen storage, which is storing hydrogen “trapped” in some solid.
    This is a pity because it is an interesting concept, perhaps not competitive in certain applications but actively developed. It is a bit of a hack from the standpoint of out-of-the-box thinking, but also a solution actually adopted with commercial implementations and specific goals by institutions such as U.S. DOE, FCH JU Europe and NEDO Japan.
    It stores hydrogen at about 10 percent of the weight of the empty “tank,” but operates at ambient pressure and perfectly manageable temperatures.
    I am not an expert but here are a couple of not-so-random links to relevant articles and a relevant company just to spark a discussion.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360319919304057
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360319922029597

    https://www.pv-magazine.com/2022/09/02/hydrogen-storage-techniques/
    https://www.mahytec.com/en/products/solid-hydrogen-storage/

    1. “Solid state hydrogen” is not much better than batteries in terms of energy per mass, and what’s worse the materials tend to be pyrophoric, so when the container gets cracked open in an accident it ignites spontaneously and lights up like a bundle of ten thousand sparkler sticks.

  8. To me, if the truck is electric then the solution would seem to be establishing a standard cell module size with any requirements (location of free air duct, physical and electrical links, standard data connector with standardized communication protocol for battery manager – powertrain control interface, etc) laid out, so that be it a pre fuelled cell, pre charged battery or a diesel-electric generator unit, the cell can be hot swapped. These would be made to suit a location on the side of the chassis so a forklift can perform the swap. This still leaves you the options of some battery or fuel cell that’s noon removable, but hot swap batteries like you do lpg canisters on a forklift seems to be the go to me.

    And I’d be looking at paying more attention to the trailers too, because your big gains from electric perforations often are in the regenerative braking, so the trailer brakes having this capability also help efficiency and range, especially if the trailers can be made backwards compatible with regular diesel. Having regen braking on each trailer plus power available on each trailer would increase the range AND speed remarkably on many hilly or mountainous routes.

  9. I own a Hyundai… was happy with it too, until it started shedding its own paint in large flakes, all the way down to sheet metal. I reported this to Hyundai and for practical purposes they told me to go pound sand. Last vehicle of theirs I will ever buy.

    Now I understand what happened: They must have let go of the engineer who knows about body primer so they could afford to hire their fuel cell expert.

    1. That’s an issue that should be solved by government regulation and enforcement. Once the whole industry has to warranty again corrosion and paint defects they get it right from the start. And the costumer gets a better product.

  10. Little off subject but I see the future of hydrogen taking off in locomotives. My biggest head scratcher is why not pull a reformer behind current diesel electric locomotives and just shut down the diesels? Pull a hydrogen tanker behind. Maybe put a battery car between. Batteries could assist in starting up and instead of dumping energy through resisters when slowing use it to charge the batteries. If needed in a long hard pull the fire up the diesels. ???

    1. Union Pacific did a demonstration of their Big Boy 4014 a few years ago where it towed a modern passenger train just fine. I think they had a pair of diesel-electric engines riding behind her to provide power to the passenger carriages but that was it. The steam locomotive did all the pulling. That particular engine was/is rated for 3800 tons at 40mph.

      I’ve always thought there was more room for improvement with rail steam. Either a fuel oil fired steam boiler driving a turbine gen-set or a smaller version of a standard nuclear pile. Modern locomotives make just under 5000 kW of power, so we only need 20MW for a large train. If you believe all the hype and speculative write ups that kind of power is attainable in a standard 40 foot intermodal shipping container footprint.

      There was talk of airborne enriched hafnium x-ray nuclear jet engines a while back but that never went anywhere. Don’t think it got past the white paper patent stage.

  11. Hydrogen is a PITA. The only reason we are looking at is because fuel-cells work on hydrogen. But they could potentially work of methanol, or even longer chains like butanol. That’s what we should be focusing on.

  12. Just consider a U.S. Interstate system with repeating Tractor and Trailers weighing in at a combined 80,000 LBS. Each Truck Hydrogen Fuel Cell powered in a completed Hydrogen Transportation System built out, with each driving up the same hill all day in sunny or cloudy freezing winter temps with fuel cells laboring to pull the load up that piece of hilly terrain, each dumping their water by product exhaust on to a rising or descending frozen road surface resulting in black ice forming on clear nights to greet you or on your morning commute the next day with mass traffic delays greeting you because of all the accident choking a interstate covered in patches of black ice caused by accidents to be found, who knows where as you travel?

    1. Its not like oil and water doesn’t constantly escape your ICE powered vehicle either…

      Plus unless you deliberately hold several hours worth of exhaust to dump all at once its not going to matter to the road surface – a tiny tiny bit of extra humidity in the highly disturbed airflow over the vehicle and some distance above the road will either disperse into the rest of the air slightly increasing humidity more generally, flash freeze into tiny crystals that in their own right make no great difference, or condense primarily on the coldest nearby surface – which isn’t likely to be the road surface.

      Black ice will always be a problem, and the slightly higher local humidity that you could expect if everyone was using Hydrogen power could generate a tiny bit more of it on the roads, but only under much the same conditions that would already generate blackice anyway – if its 0.01mm thicker and covers a few extra square centimeter it really doesn’t matter to the road safety.

  13. “There isn’t an electric vehicle on Earth that can add 727 kilometers of range in under an hour. Even if there was, it would likely require cabling and connectors rated for a megawatt or more. ”

    Isn’t that exactly what Tesla announced at the semi event, megawatt charging and <1kwh per mile?

  14. The weight energy density of hydrogen is three times that of gasoline and 100 times that of Li cells. The volumetric density is not as good of course. With liquid hydrogen you can fly further a jet plane than you could with even the best jet fuel. No matter what you say green hydrogen is the future for replacing all fossil fuels because with green hydrogen you can synthetically create all fossil fuels. Batteries are bad on energy density, recyclability, manufacturing cost, environmental impact on mining, availability of critical materials. And the best of all hydrogen availability is infinite, and is the most versatile energy source in the UNIVERSE. Every new technology has its glitches but they are solvable. And for the biological world, every time you eat it’s the hydrogen that is keeping us alive.

  15. I am wondering about how much energy is consumed in the process of producing, storing, and pumping the hydrogen. I find that in most of the alternative energy projects that they do not make a lot of sense when the efficiency of the entire supply chain is taken into account. Producing, storing, transporting, and pumping would get penalized at each phase by a low energy density. There are three main issues to resolve in order to get trucks to use an alternative fuel.

    1. Fast refueling / range – you must be able to refill the vehicle in a reasonable amount of time. An eight hour charge for an electric car might be acceptable but will absolutely kill the economics of trucking. Many trucking companies want team drivers right now so they can keep that vehicle operating as close to 24/7 as they can get. Also, a truck having a range of a couple hundred miles is unacceptable when compared to diesel ranges of over a thousand of miles per refueling stop.

    2. Power to weight ratio – the value of a truck is its ability to move a certain amount of cargo. In the US the normal maximum gross weight of the truck and cargo is 80,000 lbs and much road design is based around that. Every pound of additional weight consumed by the powertrain (i.e. heavy batteries) is a pound of cargo that you cannot carry.

    3. Universal availability / range – Hydrogen and LNG are fine for delivery trucks that return to a central location every day but for long haul trucking there must be a complete infrastructure for refueling anywhere within the country. You either need to have a lot of refueling stations or you need to have enough range to allow for fewer stations. Hydrogen has neither.

    As far as trains, those are pretty easily efficient and easy to provide electrical power for. The main problem in the United States for rail is the low density of business that requires trucking. Getting rail close enough to the sources and destination of commodities in the US is a difficult issue. Given that a lot of the product in the US is agriculture, a lot of that product is bulky, heavy, and widely distributed in such a way that trucking is a requirement. You can replace a lot of long haul trucking with rail but the local distribution in the US is highly dependent on trucking.

    Alternative fuels for heavy transport are entirely driven by one thing – ECONOMICS. If you had a fuel supply that was less expensive and more efficient operationally, the trucking and rail industry would switch to it overnight. Their businesses are 100% driven by those costs. However, the economics of switching over, transport, storage, and generation are all in there. This is why you can sell a lot of electric vehicles to people for personal use (because they do not calculate all of those factors and may be making a moral decision rather than an economic one) but you do not see heavy industry rushing to alternative fuel sources. Trains are going to be a difficult sell because they are already one of the most energy efficient modes of transport (whether electric or diesel powered).

    1. Problem 3 is trivial to solve if there is a will to do so – its easy to build to hydrogen infrastructure and you can choose to take the engineering/design compromises to have as much of it onboard as you need for the range you desire. (Going to be damn expensive, and if its going to be actually more environmentally sound you need to invest even more heavily in renewable power generation or nuclear to produce it. But it could be done – just look at how quickly and cheaply for such a project the Germans built the LNG receiving docks now their energy from Putin is cut – the nation required it, so it happened without all the years of expensive red tape delays)

      Problem 2 is likely to be a non issue – Electric drive train fuel cell are likely to massively outperform the ICE equivalent there – torque curves for electric motors are so good..

      And problem 1 really seems like its the same as problem 3 really, the ability to cover distance, just with a at x price caveat – which if the infrastructure is built and fuel duty on fossil fuel goes up for instance completely changes the best business sense. The exact operating method in use now wherever you are may not even be legal in a years time anyway – all the driver mileage and rest period counter around Europe may turn up where you are or change in allowable numbers…

    2. Oh also you do see many heavy industry rushing to alternative fuel – lots of quarries are moving to entirely Electric vehicles, building contractors are starting to take up electric too! Because it does in some places already make really good economic sense!

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