Daimler  has announced it has  teamed up with  oil giant Shell to  help hydrongen fuel cell trucks happen across Europe through the expansion of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, including the construction of 150 hydrogen fuelling stations, with the goal to strengthen a hydrogen-powered freight corridor in northern Europe that is expected to stretch out over 745 miles by 2025.

Daimler says it will produce around  5,000 Mercedes-Benz heavy-duty  hydrogen fuel cell trucks by 2030 as it ramps towards a zero emission future, as reported in T&B News last week.

On the station side of the plan is an effort by Shell to join three green hydrogen production hubs in Cologne and Hamburg in Germany, and Rotterdam in Holland. Starting in 2024 the company plans to build heavy-duty refueling stations between these three locations ahead of the arrival of the first hydrogen fuel-cell Mercedes-Benz  trucks the following year.

The two companies  have declared they plan to ‘act in concert, and to deliver stations and trucks according to customer usage patterns and needs’.

“This will be very tailored to individual trucking companies’ routes in between the three industrial cities in northern Europe and will include establishing an open refuelling standard between the trucks and the stations to make refuelling easier and faster for truck drivers,” the companies said in a joint statement

“Shell and Daimler are convinced that hydrogen-powered fuel-cell trucks will be key for enabling CO2-neutral transportation in the future,” said Daimler Trucks chairman, Martin Daum.

“With this unparalleled collaboration between two major players of the industry, we are pioneers in tackling the question of what should come first: infrastructure or vehicles. The answer is that both have to go hand in hand and we are both excited by this important step,” Daum added.

Daimler and Volvo Trucks have entered a joint venture  which they have dubbed ‘Cellcentric’,  to manufacture fuel-cell systems, with the first intended to go into production in 2025.

The companies say the Cellcentric JV plans to develop, produce, and commercialise hydrogen fuel-cell systems for large trucks, but also envisions a future where hydrogen-based fuel-cell trucks and battery-electric trucks will complement each other based on customer use cases.

The two companies say they expect battery-electric trucks will be used on shorter routes with lower cargo weights, while hydrogen fuel-cell trucks will be more suited to longer distances and heavier cargo weights.

Daimler and Shell are focusing on a hydrogen corridor between the three European industrial cities.

“We want to help our customers lower their emissions by accelerating the speed at which hydrogen trucks become a commercially viable alternative to diesel equivalents,” said Royal Dutch Shell CEO, Ben van Beurden.

“Shell and Daimler Truck intend to work together to support policies that will help to realize this key moment for fuel-cell trucks, and we invite other interested OEMs and industry partners to join us,”  van Beurden added.

While Daimler and Shell have hitched their wagons to hydrogen as the  power source of the future, Volkswagen chair, Herbert Diess, attempted to pour cold water on the technology’s potential as a fuel source for the next decade.

“Such fuels as a universal climate solution are a bit of a false promise,” Diess told German newspaper Handelsblatt.

“While they are wonderfully versatile, they cannot be expected to replace fossil fuels on a large scale. This can only be achieved with direct electrification. Hydrogen-based fuels are likely to be very scarce and uncompetitive for at least another decade,” said the VW chair.

For some, the chair of a company that was caught cheating emission tests declaring that hydrogen is not the answer is a bit rich.

Diess’ comments should also be viewed in the light of  VWs heavy investment in battery-electric cars and perhaps is also a subtle swipe at Toyota, Hyundai and BMW, with all three still clinging to plans of making hydrogen happen in private passenger cars.

Daimler and Shell’s plans envision it as an alternative fuel for long-range trucks, and is perhaps the middle road approach, allowing for some hydrogen infrastructure and development in narrow-use cases and applications.

For the moment, Daimler and Shell’s plans appear to be feasible, at least before a major breakthrough in solid state battery tech.