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Are hydrogen fuel cells the future for heavy vehicles?

12/02/2019 • 08:28am

As emissions targets continue to get tighter and tighter, focus is beginning to shift towards alternatives to full diesel engines. While it’s not entirely viable for manufacturers to completely ditch diesel, at least in the short term, there are increasing efforts being made in utilising other fuel sources.

One area that’s made considerable strides in recent years is the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology. Now, according to the sustainable energy consultancy E4tech, fuel cells look set to lead the way for the future of transport.

What is fuel cell technology?

The use of fuel cells has been key to advancing types of electric vehicles over the last few years. Through a combination of oxygen and compressed hydrogen, fuel cells generate electricity to power an on-board electric motor.

Already there have been strong examples of cars, motorbikes, trains and buses around the world successfully utilising fuel cells. While infrastructure for hydrogen fuelling stations has been limited, more are being planned in the hopes that this type of sustainable energy will be the way forward.

However, there has been some criticism over whether fuel cell technology is as efficient or cost-effective as other methods of using zero-emissions fuels.

Fuel cell use in HGVs

Over the last year, costs of fuel cells have fallen and the capacity for manufacturing them has increased. The support and involvement of businesses and national governments is now pointing towards greater applications of fuel cell technologies in the transport sector.

In particular, heavy goods vehicles are now faced with the technology as being one of their best long-term fuel options, thanks to vastly reduced emissions and the potential for favourable taxation.

The E4tech report’s lead author, Professor David Hart, noted that there’s real interest for the sustainable fuel tech with the next couple of years being vital to seeing an increase in developments. He stated: “Governments are indicating that fuel cells are a genuine contender in driving economic and industrial growth, beyond having clear environmental benefits.”


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