Truck Hybridisation—which is better, battery or fuel cell?

Why can’t we be friends?




Robert Wingrove

Principal Consultant / Founder

“With a yearly market of more than 2,000,000 heavy-duty trucks, that’s enough pie for everyone.”

This question has been asked for more than thirty years and created many an argument. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard it, and honestly, I’ve grown tired of the polarising discussion. Why can’t we just be friends?

Fuel cells produce electrical power and batteries store electrical energy—a perfect match! Both enable zero-emission electric powertrains and are attempting to replace diesel trucks, but each has its constraints. Battery trucks are too heavy and take too long to charge, while the fuel cell required to run a 500 HP truck is large and expensive. Yet, each technology brings its own advantages.

How do each other’s offsetting strengths and weaknesses stack-up? Batteries are less expensive and respond faster than fuel cells. In contrast, fuel cells + hydrogen are lighter, take up less space and “fill” more quickly than batteries.

fuel cell vs battery trucks

As battery technology advancements have bolstered ranges in late model cars, permitting less time between charges, weight and charge time have not decreased to the amount needed to disrupt the heavy-duty truck market. A case-in-point is the Tesla Semi; it does what it says on the label, the truck will be feasible for most short-haul routes. Why not all routes? If the truck needs to run multiple shifts, it will need to charge for hours. Additional range is necessary for long-haul, but the Semi is already at the 40-ton combined limit.

Imagine a design that combines a fuel cell engine that keeps up with the energy demand of high-speed cruise with a medium-sized battery to conquer the hills, combined with efficient e-axles. Aha, we’ve just designed a no-compromise truck, that will seal the end of diesel! With a yearly market of more than 2,000,000 heavy-duty trucks, that’s enough pie for everyone.

Let’s cooperate in technology and on social networks. #bekind

© 2020 CleanAirty, A Division of Finding North Ltd.

1 thought on “Truck Hybridisation

Leave a Reply