With the GenH2 Truck, Daimler hopes to demonstrate that fuel-cell trucks can perform flexible and demanding long-distance haulage operations with ranges of up to 1,000 kilometers and more on a single tank of hydrogen. Credit: Daimler-Benz.

What could very well be the future of truck transportation is undergoing rigorous testing on a track in Germany as you read this.

Daimler Trucks is focusing on hydrogen-powered fuel-cells for the electrification of its vehicles for flexible and demanding long-haul transport.

It aims to achieve ranges of up to 1,000 kilometres and more without any stops for refuelling. Not an easy task, but they are pushing ahead — customer trials are scheduled to begin in 2023 and actual sales in 2027.

In late April, the truck manufacturing giant began testing the first new enhanced prototype of its Mercedes-Benz GenH2 Truck, Automotive World reported.

The extensive series of tests is very demanding for the vehicle and its components, and focusses, among other things, on continuous operation, different weather and road conditions, and various driving manoeuvers.

“We are consistently pursuing our technology strategy for the electrification of our trucks,” said Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG.

“We want to offer our customers the best locally CO2-neutral trucks — powered by either batteries or hydrogen-based fuel-cells, depending on the use case. We’re right on schedule and I’m delighted that the rigorous tests of the GenH2 Truck have started successfully.

“The hydrogen-powered fuel-cell drive will become indispensable for CO2-neutral long-haul road transport in the future,” Daum added, crediting regulatory backing.

“Political support plays an important role in promoting the creation of an infrastructure for green hydrogen and making an economically viable use of fuel-cell trucks possible for our customers.”

The GenH2 is designed to help meet the 2050 targets of sustainable transport and a carbon-neutral Europe as part of the highly touted European Green Deal.

The major truck manufacturers in Europe, backed by Daimler Truck AG and Volvo Group, are calling for the setup of around 300 high-performance hydrogen refuelling stations suitable for heavy-duty vehicles by 2025 and of around 1,000 hydrogen refuelling stations no later than 2030 in Europe.

This joint initiative, using hydrogen as a carrier of green electricity to power electric trucks in long-haul operations, is one important part of decarbonizing road transport. 

A diagram of how the liquid hydrogen runs through the fuel cell electric system. on the Mercedes-Benz GenH2 Truck. Credit: Daimler-Benz.

Meanwhile, the durability tests will place the same demands on the vehicle and components as a comparable diesel truck.

So the vehicles are designed for 1.2 million kilometres, ten years of operation and 25,000 operating hours.

In the first weeks of testing, the GenH2 truck completed endurance tests on the roller dynamometer and practical load tests such as full braking or driving over kerbs on the test track.

The prototype is not travelling empty, but with a payload of 25 tonnes, it has a total weight of around 40 tonnes.

Newly designed from the ground up, the GenH2 features completely new components, which the developers are particularly focusing on during the tests.

These components include the fuel-cell system, the all-electric powertrain, and all of the associated systems such as the special cooling unit. In addition, the new components’ specific weight and position in the vehicle affect the truck’s handling properties.

As a result, the vibrations caused by bumpy roads, for example, and especially by extreme situations, subject the fuel-cell truck to different forces than those in conventional vehicles.

One question Daum often gets is why Daimler’s trucks take so long to come out.

“If we bring the vehicles to the market too early then we don’t know how those vehicles will hold up,” Daum continued.

“And we always need two winters. In the first winter stuff breaks; in the second winter we can prove this stuff has been fixed.”

Daimler and Volvo both believe hydrogen fuel cells have a place alongside pure electric power, and they’re teaming up to ensure that happens. They’re forming a joint venture to develop and sell fuel cell systems. Credit: Daimler-Benz.

The cabover style truck will have a 40-ton gross vehicle weight rating and 25-ton payload capacity. It will have two 40-kg stainless steel storage tanks for the hydrogen, which will be vacuum-insulated and cooled to -253 degrees C.

The two 150-kw fuel stacks each comprise 200 cells, for a total of 300 kw.

The liquid hydrogen is heated and converted into a gas onboard, which go into the fuel cell, as does oxygen. Through the electrochemical reaction and the use of anodes and cathodes on the oppositely charged atoms, electricity and steam are created.  

The electricity then goes to the 70-kWh battery, which powers the e-axle. 

Sven Ennerst, head of development for Daimler Truck AG, said the battery is expected to provide 230 kw of continuous power and 330 kw of peak power, with no performance fluctuations.

Refueling will be comparable to that of a diesel truck – somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.

Sources: Daimler-Benz, Automotive World, FleetOwner.com, ElecDrive.com