On the circuit through the Swedish forest there is not a truck with fuel cell and hydrogen in the tank. At the Innovation Day near the Scania headquarters in Södertälje, journalists are allowed to test new products from MAN, Scania and the Brazilian brand Caminhões e Ônibus. All trucks and buses work as a hybrid or with electric motor and battery. The Volkswagen Group has bundled its three commercial vehicle brands in the Traton Group. According to Daimler and Volvo, Traton is the third largest truck supplier according to registration numbers.
Traton shows its product range in Södertälje for the next 15 to 20 years. The fuel cell is missing. It is considered the optimal solution for heavy vehicles and long distances. "The biggest challenge in the fuel cell is not the technology, but - due to high energy losses in green production - the price of hydrogen," says Andreas Renschler, CEO of Traton Group. "Our customers in the heavy-duty segment, in particular, travel long distances on a regular basis, which means that they would have to bear considerable additional costs compared with a fully electric truck - assuming the appropriate infrastructure is available."
Another problem: Sustainable transport with hydrogen is only sustainable if it is produced with renewable energy. However, the hydrogen currently available on the market is predominantly produced from fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal. An efficiency dilemma is added: Of the 100 kilowatt hours of electricity, only around 20 to 25 kilowatt hours end up in the hydrogen tank. Breaking down water into its components, compressing the gas and transporting it to the gas station costs energy. Every step worsens the energy balance. In the battery-electric vehicle, however, around 70 to 75 kilowatt hours arrive in the battery.
Compulsion to emission-free transport
The transport industry is under pressure not only due to the lack of drivers in long-distance traffic. The EU is tightening CO2 emissions standards for heavy trucks (from 16 tonnes). Not as strong as the car manufacturers, but minus 15 percent by 2025 and minus 30 percent by 2030 based on the figures of 2019 can only be achieved by emission-free drive. Although electricity charging takes longer and a lithium-ion battery is heavier than a fuel cell and a hydrogen tank, the trend is clear.
E-car pioneer Tesla now wants to electrify the transport industry. Only a few performance data for the Tesla Semi are known. The tractor will be launched on the market in 2020 and will transport its cargo as a 40-ton truck with a battery charge of up to 800 kilometers. The consumption should be at 125 kilowatt hours per 100 kilometers. To create 800 kilometers, the battery would have a capacity of 1,000 kilowatt hours - ten times as much as the largest battery in the Model S or X. A battery weighs about 750 kilograms. Extrapolated that makes for the Tesla Semi 7.5 tons. Probably the actual value is a bit lower.
Weight is a key factor in the transportation industry. The heavier the truck, the less it can transport, after all, there is a permissible total weight. This is calculated by freight forwarders. They will hardly invest in new, more expensive trucks if they can transport less with them. One idea to influence this calculation is the CO2-related toll. The savings could encourage hauliers to change as long as the remaining business figures on the truck are correct.