Volvo Trucks has announced this week, that it had begun to test hydrogen fuel cell trucks with the Swedish commercial vehicle giant claiming that the hydrogen powered trucks could boast a range as much as 1,000 kilometres.

In its statement Volvo said refuelling the trucks would take under 15 minutes and that pilot testing programs with customer are set to begin in the next few years, with commercialisation “planned for the latter part of this decade.”

Fuel cells for the vehicles will be provided by cellcentric, the joint venture Volvo has with its German rival, Daimler Truck, which was established in March last year.

“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric trucks will be especially suitable for long distances and heavy, energy-demanding assignments,” said  the president of Volvo Trucks, Roger Alm.

“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric trucks will be especially suitable for long distances and heavy, energy-demanding assignments,” Alm added.

“They could also be an option in countries where battery charging possibilities are limited,” he continued

Hydrogen fuel cell technology, uses the fuel cells to generate its own electricity in a reaction inside the cell using the power generated onboard to charge the batteries, with the only biproduct emitted being water vapour.

“We expect the supply of green hydrogen to increase significantly during the next couple of years since many industries will depend on it to reduce carbon dioxide,” Alm said.

“We can’t wait to decarbonise transport as we are already running late. My message to all transport companies is to start the journey today with battery electric, biogas and other available options.

“The fuel cell trucks will then be an important compliment for longer and heavier transports in a few years from now.”

Volvo is also developing battery-electric trucks alongside its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle program.

The International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook for 2021, has described long-haul trucking as needing advanced technologies for high power charging and/or large batteries, signalling that the electrification of long-haul, heavy-duty trucks poses its own unique set of challenges.

Competition within the sector has increased in recent years with Volvo Trucks’ focus on zero-emission technologies putting it in competition with companies such as Tesla, Nikola and its hydrogen JV partner Daimler, which are all developing electric trucks.

While there is excitement in some quarters about the potential for hydrogen-powered vehicles, there are hurdles when it comes to expanding the sector, a point acknowledged by Volvo.

It pointed to challenges including the “large-scale supply of green hydrogen” as well as “the fact that refuelling infrastructure for heavy vehicles is yet to be developed.”

Described by the IEA as a “versatile energy carrier,” hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be deployed in a wide range of industries.

It can be produced in a number of ways, including using electrolysis, where an electric current ‘splits’ water into oxygen and hydrogen.

If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar then it is called “green” or “renewable” hydrogen. Currently however the vast majority of hydrogen produced is ‘split’ using power generated by fossil fuels, which is known as either ‘brown’ or ‘blue’ hydrogen, depending on howe it was prodcuced.

Volvo Construction Equipment, which is part of the Volvo Group, recently said it had also commenced testing a “uel cell articulated hauler prototype.

Like Volvo, Daimler is focusing on both battery-electric and hydrogen vehicles.

In an interview with the CNBC network last year, Daimler boss, Martin Daum was asked about the debate between battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell.

“We go for both because both … make sense,” Daum said, going on to explain how different technologies would be appropriate in different scenarios.

“In general, you can say that If you go to city delivery where you need lower amounts of energy in there, you can charge overnight in a depot, then it’s certainly battery electric,” he said.

“But the moment you’re on the road, the moment you go from Stockholm to Barcelona … in my opinion, you need something which you can transport better and where you can refuel better and that is ultimately H2.”

“The ruling is not out, but I think it’s too risky for a company our size to go with just one technology,” Daum said.