25 Feb 2022, 13:24
Sören Amelang

German engineers insist on hydrogen trucks for long-distance road transport

Clean Energy Wire

The association of German engineers (VDI) and technology organisation VDE insist on the large-scale deployment of hydrogen trucks for long-range road transport to reach the EU climate targets. "In order to meet the EU requirements, the VDI and VDE are clearly backing fuel cell propulsion for long-distance transport of heavy commercial vehicles and battery-electric propulsion for small commercial vehicles in urban areas," the associations said, adding fuel cell vehicles can drive longer ranges and refuel faster than electric vehicles, which are more efficient. "The latest political plan to no longer promote the construction and operation of hydrogen filling stations would have fatal consequences," warned Martin Pokojski, head of the associations' hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles committee. "Now is the right time to further expand existing hydrogen filling stations and add new ones."

Many transport experts and environmentalists say road transport should be electrified directly instead of using hydrogen fuel cells, because these require several times more energy. They also argue that hydrogen will remain a scarce resource and should be used in sectors that cannot be electrified directly, such as industry and aviation. But in contrast to passenger cars, which look to become almost exclusively battery-electric in the future, the technology race in heavy goods transport is not settled yet. Truckmakers increasingly bet on battery trucks, but some also pursue fuel cell technology.

A majority of logistics companies say that electric trucks should be able to travel at least 500 kilometres in local and regional traffic and 800 kilometres in long-distance traffic, according to a survey by the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut). "Detours for charging the batteries or refuelling hydrogen are only tolerated to a small extent and up to a maximum of ten kilometres," the institute said, adding logistics companies needed reliability and planning security to initiate the shift to low-emission technologies.

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