Heavy-duty vehicles account for approximately 17%-18% of domestic transport emissions in the UK.

With the continued drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, the race is on to develop alternative sustainable fuels. Hydrogen continues to show its potential as a sustainable fuel source, particularly for the heavy-duty sector.

One of the most significant advantages of hydrogen as a fuel is its potential to eliminate tailpipe emissions entirely.

The two ways in which hydrogen can eliminate heavy-duty truck tailpipe emissions are through fuel cell technology or hydrogen combustion.

Hydrogen fuel cell systems have a high energy efficiency, making them highly efficient in converting hydrogen fuel into electricity. This translates into improved fuel economy and longer-range for heavy-duty trucks. This also provides an extended driving range compared to other alternative fuels. With advancements in hydrogen storage and infrastructure, hydrogen-powered trucks can cover long distances without compromising their performance.

Although there are some electric heavy-duty trucks in development, one of the limitations of electric vehicles (EVs) is the time required for recharging. Hydrogen-powered trucks offer a solution to this with refuelling times being only a fraction of EV charging. This advantage minimises downtime for heavy-duty truck drivers and allows for increased productivity and operational efficiency.

Hydrogen produced from a variety of sources, including natural gas, biomass, and renewable energy through electrolysis, offers versatility and scalability to meet the demands of the heavy-duty sector.

Furthermore, hydrogen fuel cell systems and hydrogen combustion engines can be integrated into existing truck designs, making it easier to adopt and implement hydrogen technology without significant modifications to the vehicle design and associated infrastructure.

It is well known that decarbonising the heavy-duty and off-highway sectors poses some considerable challenges. However, the United Kingdom are forging forward with hydrogen innovations for these sectors and paving the way for a hydrogen economy.

In this blog we look at how some of our established and some of our new manufacturers are developing hydrogen truck designs, driving down emissions and supporting the hydrogen economy.

JCB – hydrogen combustion technology.

JCB do not shy away from innovation and have been extolling the virtues of hydrogen combustion in their prototype construction and agricultural machines.

However, they have now taken this one step further and recently announced that they have installed one of their highly efficient hydrogen engines into a 7.5 tonne Mercedes truck.

The installation was completed in just a few days and one of the truck’s first test drivers was JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford, who has been spearheading JCB’s £100 million hydrogen project. (1)

The former diesel truck at the centre of JCB’s latest project is a breakthrough in hydrogen combustion technology, underlining that this sort of power could represent a much quicker way to reach global CO2 emissions targets.

“This is a giant leap forward for JCB and the rest of the world because we all have one goal: to reduce emissions. The hydrogen engine we have installed in the truck is the same as those already powering prototype JCB machines, so there is no reason we should not see hydrogen combustion engines in vehicles used on the roads in the future, including cars.” Lord Bamford – JCB Chairman (1)

DAF – hydrogen combustion engines and fuel cell technology.

DAF NV have been designing and developing trucks for over 90 years and UK DAF for over 50 years. DAF have long been innovators in the truck development sector and are now part of hydrogen innovation in the heavy-duty sector.

While PACCAR (global technology leader in the design, manufacture and customer support of high-quality light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks) explores fuel cell technology, DAF UK is developing an ICE to run on hydrogen.

Compared to the fuel cell hydrogen solution, the combustion engine option has transient capabilities (eliminating the need of a large energy storage system). Other advantages include the lower cooling capabilities needed and lower sensitivity to hydrogen purity. (2)

DAF believe that by harnessing the power of hydrogen combustion, they can continue to use existing distribution networks and established infrastructures.

The European truck industry has expressed the aim to refrain from using fossil fuels for their commercial vehicles as from 2040. However, the internal combustion engine still offers huge potential for the future, especially in the heavy-duty long-haul transport sector. (2)

Tevva – hydrogen fuel cell truck technology.

In September 2022 UK truck manufacturer Tevva unveiled their pioneering 19 tonne hydrogen-electric truck.

Tevva’s largest truck to date, the 19-tonne hydrogen-electric model signifies a considerable milestone and highlights the scalability of its technology.

By adding a hydrogen fuel cell system to its battery-electric HGV design, Tevva delivers zero-emission solutions that will work for most fleet operators across various industries and sectors. The fuel cell system tops up the battery, extending the vehicle’s range and allowing the truck to carry heavier loads over longer distances.  With a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometres) the Tevva hydrogen tanks can be refilled in 10 minutes. (3)

One advantage of using the fuel cell as a range extender rather than the primary power source is that it allows Tevva to provide smaller, cheaper and lighter fuel cells and operate these at the highest possible efficiency. (3)

Hydrogen Vehicle Systems Ltd (HVS) – hydrogen fuel cell technology.

HVS is a new UK-based hydrogen truck manufacturer and innovator in the heavy-duty sector. HVS having initially had a £5M investment from EG Group and subsequently a further £25m; have also benefitted from £15M grant from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) as part of a wider funding package to support zero emission transport.

In April 2023 HVS unveiled its 40-tonne HGV technology demonstrator, featuring a unique powertrain and radical cab design, making it the first indigenous UK Hydrogen HGV, designed, and built from the ground up. (4)

A reinvention of the commercial vehicle design, the HVS 40 tonne hydrogen fuel cell truck is aimed at optimising range, payload, weight distribution, direct vision, aerodynamics and sports an ergonomically practical cab design. With a range of 370-mile (600 kilometre) range, the HVS truck can also be refuelled in just 20 minutes.

Ilyas Munshi, group commercial director of EG Group, said: “We are committed to driving sustainability across our extensive UK and global fuel forecourt network by investing in HVS trucks, influencing the demand for hydrogen and vehicles in parallel from our large selection of partnerships.” (4)

Written by Katy Mason for and on behalf of Dolphin N2.

  1. https://www.jcb.com/en-gb/campaigns/hydrogen/hydrogen-truck
  2. https://www.daf.co.uk/en-gb/trucks/alternative-fuels-and-drivelines/hydrogen
  3. https://www.tevva.com/en/articles/uk-gets-first-hydrogen-electric-truck-with-landmark-tevva-launch
  4. https://www.hvs.co.uk/about