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May 20, 2021

Economic Viability of Fuel-Cell Based Long-Haul Heavy-Duty Transport

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There is an intense debate going on at the moment about hydrogen’s potential as an energy carrier in the automotive industry, especially in the commercial vehicle sector. The transportation sector is under pressure to bring forward the right mix of drivetrain solutions to help meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times and to achieve the EU’s target of being climate neutral by 2050.

Hydrogen as an energy carrier is benefiting from the rise of national and regional strategies and funding opportunities. It is a promising candidate for CO2 reduction for the powertrain and truck application in the combustion engine as well as fuel cell-based solutions. Hydrogen prices from currently about €9 /kgH2 will decrease significantly in the upcoming years based on the availability of increasing amounts of green electricity, as well as economies of scale in hydrogen production.

CO2 emissions charges play an increasing role in operating costs, much to the drawback of diesel drives compared with hydrogen drives. In Germany, diesels are being charged at a level of €25/tCO2 (~€7ct/l diesel) since January 1, 2021 with an announced increase in price already by 2025.

Tolls are an important cost consideration for fleet operators as they account for about 25% of OPEX in long-haul heavy-duty transportation. A staggered toll-reduction program for electric- and natural gas-powered trucks is in place in Germany to support the market rampup of these vehicles. Trucks with electric drivetrains, including fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), will be completely exempt from tolls for an unlimited period.

The practical application of a hydrogen-based propulsion systems in long haul heavy duty transportation depends not only on the economic efficiency of the vehicles but also, to a large extent, on the technical and economic feasibility of the necessary fuelling infrastructure. Furthermore, the report analyses alternatives for providing the necessary infrastructure as an important factor for the practical introduction of alternative propulsion systems.

Will fuel-cell-based long-haul heavy-duty trucks be economically viable in the future? Download your free copy of our latest analysis of long-haul heavy-duty transport and learn more!

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