The Volvo Group is really serious about introducing hydrogen fuel cell trucks to the trucking world, and now they are striving to include heavy construction equipment in their zero-emission embrace. Subsidiary Volvo Construction Equipment is excited about a new fuel cell test lab that will accelerate research and development, and CTO Thomas Bitter kindly shared some thoughts with CleanTechnica. Can it now do something about those noisy, diesel-spitting ice cream trucks?
Large hydrogen fuel cell machines for your friendly neighborhood construction site
Before we start, we want to make it clear that Volvo CE is part of the Volvo Group, which makes practically everything except Volvo-branded cars. The cars fall under another Volvo headquartered in Sweden that is currently owned by the Geely Motors brand in China, having bought it from Ford about 10 years ago. The Volvo Group is also headquartered in Sweden, but that’s different. Do you have it all
This is followed by an email interview that has been slightly edited lengthways.
CleanTechnica: Why rely on fuel cells instead of battery packs in the construction machinery sector?
Bitter: We see hydrogen fuel cell technology as a key factor in sustainable solutions for heavier construction machinery, and this investment provides us with another important tool in our work to achieve the science-based goals and our goal of being 100% fossil-free by 2040.
While battery-electric solutions are ideal for urban construction and other applications, the size of the batteries is simply too impractical for larger machines and heavy construction machinery, where hydrogen-powered fuel cells will complement battery-electric drive trains in the field of electromobility.
Battery electric machines are mainly suitable for shorter distances and lower loads, while fuel cell electric machines are perfect for more demanding applications such as long distances, long distances and short refueling stops.
Have green hydrogen in your fuel cell machines
CleanTechnica: What are the effects of green hydrogen?
Bitter: Hydrogen can be produced in many different ways and we believe that a life cycle approach is important across the value chain.
This means that the research and development in the test laboratory not only focuses on the production of fossil-free construction solutions, but also on how the hydrogen itself was produced, and strive for so-called “green” hydrogen, which is made from renewable energy.
CleanTechnica: What are the advantages of green hydrogen over hydrogen from natural gas?
Bitter: We will definitely encourage the use of green hydrogen in order to reduce the carbon footprint from a life cycle perspective. For this purpose, renewable energy must be used to generate the hydrogen … We will also benefit from the newly founded company cellcentric, which will accelerate the development, production and commercialization of fuel cell systems for long-distance use, trucks and other applications such as construction machinery.
In the long term, in certain segments of our industry in particular, there is the potential for large mining or construction sites to have their own infrastructure with wind or solar energy in order to generate their own green hydrogen.
Volvo Group Still Hearts batteries
If everything goes according to plan, the noisy construction site down by the block won’t spit diesel fumes into the glittering green future. The new Volvo CE test lab is the Volvo Group’s first dedicated research and development center for fuel cell technology and there is no tinkering with it.
“The dedicated laboratory in the Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) technical center in Eskilstuna, Sweden is a huge step forward in the company’s commitment to hydrogen. The laboratory is also the first Volvo Group facility to test complete fuel cell units and, as such, will be a major contributor to the company’s commitment to fuel cell technology, ”Volvo said when it announced plans for the facility earlier this year.
ICE and battery electric fans, don’t lose heart, because Volvo CE positions hydrogen fuel cells as one leg of a three-legged stool. The company will also rely heavily on EV batteries and sustainable ICE fuels to be carbon neutral by 2040.
What is this cell centricity you are talking about?
Just a few years ago, fuel cell mobility was seen as a laugh riot. Now everyone is involved, both old automakers and start-ups with big ambitions. Since Bitter named “cellcentric” in the interview, let’s take a quick look at this venture.
Cellcentric (not to be confused with the biotech company of the same name) is a production mashup by Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group, which is geared towards both mobile and stationary fuel cell applications.
“As a pioneer in the development, manufacture and repair of hydrogen fuel cell systems, our units can be used for every application. They can be flexibly adapted to different applications, such as a clean drive train in trucks and other commercial vehicles or as an emergency power supply for critical facilities in data centers, ”explains the company help the world to take a big step towards climate-neutral and sustainable transport by 2050. “
What about a fuel cell ice cream truck?
All of which is well and good, but we’re still waiting for someone to build a fuel cell ice cream truck. Plus, fuel cell food trucks would be cool too. After all, who wants to breathe in diesel fumes while waiting for their street food?
If we all really want it, maybe the Volvo Group will come up with one. After all, the company already makes trucks that transport cold food. How hard can it be?
Volvo is already here in the USA with the battery-electric wing from Volvo Trucks USA in the field of emission-free refrigerated trucks. Just a few weeks ago, the leading US grocery chain Albertsons Companies acquired a mini-fleet of two Volvo VNR Electric Trucks at its distribution center in Irvine, California, which it tricked with electric cooling units from Advanced Energy Machines.
Okay, two electric trucks doesn’t sound very ambitious, but Albertsons is looking forward to converting its entire fleet.
“This inaugural delivery, which took place in a LEED-certified Albertsons store in Irvine, California on May 28, 2021, is an exciting step towards meeting the company’s sustainability goals,” said Albertsons.
In earnest. “Albertson’s Cos. operates 1,400 Class 8 trucks nationwide, all of which are EPA SmartWay certified and meet high standards for sustainability and efficiency in transportation, ”added Volvo. “The fleet in Southern California, made up entirely of Volvo Trucks, includes 335 stores in the region, stretching from the Central Coast to the California-Mexico border.”
Tim Burke, Albertson’s Vice President of Transportation, said the trucks “will not only help improve air quality in the communities where we operate, but the quiet engines will also provide a better working environment for our drivers and grocers . “
Well! And what about all the kids standing in line at the ice cream truck? Do you have to forever breathe diesel fumes while you wait for your sugar solution?
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Image: How a hydrogen fuel cell works, courtesy of Volvo CE
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