A UK-based hydrogen expert says the goal of using green hydrogen as a way of “greening” up long distance trucking makes no sense and is “completely wrong”.

The potential uses of green hydrogen have been hyped up by many governments and aspiring developers, and it is considered a non-starter for passenger vehicles. But Cambridge professor and co-founder of the Hydrogen Science Coalition, David Cebon, says it does not stake up even for long haul trucking.

“Hydrogen trucking is really not going to happen anywhere,” Cebon told The Driven.

“The vehicles are at least double the cost of a battery electric vehicle and it costs three times more [in terms of energy] to run them than an electric vehicle.”

The former Victorian says that even for remote locations like Fitzroy Crossing, which is 400km east of Broome and 300km west of Hall’s Creek, electrification is still a better option for heavy haulage for those prioritising where their electrons are best spent.

“You could make it on site, but it takes three times more electricity to make the green hydrogen you need to take a truck one kilometre compared to driving an electric truck the same distance,” he says.

“So if you have solar panels out in Fitzroy Crossing you’re way better to just make the electricity instead of converting that to hydrogen.”

The Driven comprehensively dismantled the argument for hydrogen in passenger cars in January.

Wasting a ‘precious resource’

Cebon’s research for the InnovateUK Zero Emission Road Freight Demonstrator (ZERFD) trial outlines the challenges he sees in using green hydrogen for long distance land haulage, which he calls “a scarce and precious resource” that should be quarantined for sectors like aviation or shipping that can’t be electrified at all.

Making green hydrogen via electrolysis, compressing and storing it, then using it in a fuel cell to make electricity to power a vehicle has an overall efficiency of 23 per cent, compared to 69 per cent for a pure battery vehicle, he found, requiring three times more land area for wind or solar farms to generate the same energy return.

His UK-based research suggests a 1503 kWh battery can get a 44 tonne truck up to 686km.

The difficulty is that this sized battery is not available in Australia for long distance trucking, and the current workhorses of Australian long-distance haulage, B-Double trucks, can on average make an 800-1200 kms trip without refuelling.

In Australia, the largest heavy haulage vehicle battery is 1,400 kWh and is a prototype being used by Fortescue Metals Group to power a 240 tonne truck used on mine sites.

The battery weighs 15 tonnes, measures 3.6m long, 1.6m wide and 2.4m high, and is made up of eight sub-packs, each with 36 modules, all individually cooled and each with its own management system.

The Volvo FH, on the other hand, has a 300km range and a 540kWh battery. While that will get trucks half way across Europe, in a country as vast as Australia these vehicles will still only be useful as inter-city or port runabouts.

Extracted in full from: Hydrogen for long-distance trucking makes no sense, says expert (thedriven.io)