Competitors Volvo AB and Daimler Trucks are teaming up to produce hydrogen fuel cells for long-haul trucks that they say will lower the companies’ development costs and boost production volumes. The joint venture, called Cellcentric, aims to bring large-scale “Gigafactic” production levels of hydrogen fuel cells to Europe by 2025.
While the two companies are teaming up to produce fuel cells through Cellcentric Venture, all other aspects of truck production will remain different. The location of the upcoming Gigafacting will be announced next year. The companies also did not specify the production capacity of the upcoming factory.
Even Volvo AB and Daimler Trucks used ambitious-notation words such as “Gigafacting” – a term popularized by Tesla due to the Giga capacity of its factories – with officials giving some cautious warnings on their targets. Europe’s hydrogen economy will depend on whether the European Union can create a policy framework that reduces costs and invests in refueling stations and other infrastructure, officials noted in a media briefing. In other words, manufacturers like Daimler and Volvo who are facing the problem of hydrogen and ‘egg and egg’: promoting fuel cell production only makes sense when it is coupled with the creation of a hydrogen network, including Fueling stations are also included. To produce pipelines for transportation of hydrogen, and renewable energy resources.
“In the long run, I mean it should be a business-driven activity,” Volvo CTO Lars Stankvist told ClearTips. “But in the first wave, our politicians should be supported.”
Together with other European truck manufacturers, the two companies are calling for the construction of around 300 and around 1,000 hydrogen refueling stations in Europe by 2025.
Swedish and German automakers suggested policies such as a tax on carbon, incentives for CO2-neutral technologies, or an emissions trading system that could help ensure cost-competitiveness against fossil fuels. Heavy-duty trucking will only account for a fraction of the hydrogen demand, about 10%, Stenkvist reported, with the remainder being used by industries such as steelmaking and the chemical industry. This means that the push for hydrogen-supporting policies will be heard from other sectors as well.
One of the biggest challenges for the new venture is to reduce inefficiencies associated with converting electricity to hydrogen. “The core of engineering in trucking is to improve the energy efficiency of the vehicle”, Stenkvist said. “It has always been in the DNA of engineers in our industry … energy efficiency will be even more important in an electrified world.” He estimated that the cost of hydrogen would be in the range of $ 3-4 per kilogram to make diesel cost effective.
Volvo Battery is also investing in electric technologies and Stenkvist said it sees potential use cases for internal combustion engines (ICEs) running on renewable biofuels. He along with Bosch officials said earlier this month that they see a place for the ICE in the future. “I also believe that for a long time there is a place for combustion engines, I see no end, I see no retirement date for combustion engines,” he said.
“From a political side, I think it would be completely wrong to ban a technology. Politicians should not impose sanctions – technologies should not approve – they should point the direction, they should talk about what they want to achieve. And then it is up to us as engineers to come up with technical solutions. “