Toyota, Shell and a group of automotive and industrial companies are working together to standardize hydrogen-fueling components that could get fuel-cell electric trucks on the road faster.
The group wants the fueling nozzle, vehicle receptacle, dispenser hose and other components to be useable in all fuel cell vehicles.
The companies include Hyundai, startup Nikola Motor, Norwegian hydrogen station builder NEL Hydrogen Fueling and French industrial gas maker Air Liquide. They signed a memorandum of understanding to test components for Class 8 heavy-duty trucks.
“This is big – the first step towards standardizing the fueling system,” said Antti Lindstrom, a trucking analyst with IHS Markit. “This is exactly what the technology needs to get mainstream acceptance.”
Nikola plans a nationwide network of 16 hydrogen-fueling stations to support the launch of its Nikola One heavy-duty fuel-cell truck in 2021. It plans to operate 700 hydrogen fueling stations by 2028. Its first major truck customer is beer giant Anheuser-Busch, which has ordered up to 800 of Nikola’s trucks in the largest single deal on record for heavy-duty delivery trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
“The goal is to enable interoperability so that any (fuel-cell vehicles) can fuel at our hydrogen stations and we can fill at any of theirs, just like diesel today,” said Jesse Schneider, Nikola executive vice president.
Fuel-cell vehicles can be filled with hydrogen gas in 10 minutes, the same time required to fill a diesel-powered truck, Schneider said.
Toyota is partnering with Kenworth Truck Co., a unit of Paccar Inc., to build a demonstration fleet of 10 fuel-cell trucks for testing in Southern California. Both Toyota and Hyundai are marketing hydrogen fuel-cell passenger cars in the U.S. and are looking for ways to expand fueling infrastructure.
“This sector is growing quickly as fuel cells offer scalability, range, quick refueling and both environmental and economic benefits to medium- and heavy-duty vehicles,” said Morry Markowitz, president of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.
Standards a key
Nel, which is building the Nikola station network, said fueling hardware standards are key to commercial success.
“It can’t be just Nikola alone doing it,” Lindstrom said. “We need other chemical suppliers to be part of that chain. The network of filling stations needs to be built up as soon as possible.”
Air Liquide said in December it would build a hydrogen-production plant in the Western U.S. capable of making nearly 30 tons of hydrogen a day, enough for 35,000 fuel-cell electric vehicles.
Most of those vehicles are in California, which counts on zero-tailpipe emission fuel-cell vehicles to help meet its 2050 goal of reducing smog-trapping greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent.
“It improves the potential to further support California’s efforts to expand transportation electrification in heavy-duty applications,” Tony Brasil, chief of the Transportation and Clean Technology Branch of the California Air Resources Board, told Trucks.com. “Successful deployment of fuel cell electric trucks would help meet goals established by CARB.”
Suppliers are being asked to sign up to participate in a test program to meet industry standards from SAE International, the Industry Standards Organization and the Canadian Standards Organization.