The race is on to see which technology will replace internal combustion engines in trucks. Will hydrogen be the winner?
Transport is responsible for approximately 25% of carbon dioxide emissions in the European Union (data from the European Environment Agency for 2019). Trucks contribute 27.1% to all transport emissions. It is therefore easy to calculate that road transport of goods is responsible for almost 7% of all CO2 emissions in the European community.
Equally important, transport is the only sector of the EU economy where greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 1990 (by more than 1/3 by 2019). It is therefore not surprising that solutions are being sought to make it greener.
Electric vehicles are still the most talked about in this context, but the road to their popularization is still very long (which we wrote about recently in more detail on our blog).
MAYBE HYDROGEN IS THE RECIPE?
Slightly less public interest accompanies the development of hydrogen technology. However, it must be said that it has quite a large group of supporters in the truck industry.
How does a hydrogen truck work? It is set in motion by… an electric motor. When we think about whether electric or hydrogen cars will be the future, we are actually thinking about what type of electric trucks will dominate in the future.
But let’s start from the beginning. The hydrogen contained in the truck’s tank goes to the cells, where, as a result of a chemical reaction, it is transformed into water and generates electricity used by the engine. And that’s it. Harmless water can be released onto the road on an ongoing basis, and the electricity can be used to continue driving. If we add that hydrogen trucks are now able to travel up to half a thousand kilometers on one tank, this technology seems really promising.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF HYDROGEN TRUCKS?
The main disadvantage here is, of course, the costs. Hydrogen is produced in the electrolysis process, which, to put it simply, requires water and electricity. A lot of water (up to 13 kg to produce 1 kg of hydrogen) and even more electricity. The more expensive electricity, the more expensive hydrogen and the less competitive this technology becomes.
Although experts predict that thanks to the use of renewable energy sources, hydrogen hydrolysis will become increasingly cheaper, for now we are still talking about an expensive procedure that is usually based on “dirty” energy.
The availability of hydrogen stations is also a problem. If hydrogen vehicles are to become widespread, the necessary infrastructure must be built. This is certainly easier than building a network of fast charging stations (which would require extensive investment in the entire power transmission infrastructure), but it still takes time and money.
Scientists from ETH Zurich recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a simulation of what changes will occur in the truck fleet before 2035. Research shows that while the importance of electric and hydrogen cars will increase significantly among light vehicles, among the heaviest cars they will still be a curiosity rather than a popular solution.
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