Daimler AG’s truck unit and Volvo AB said on Thursday (29 April) they would start making hydrogen fuel cells in Europe in 2025 via a joint venture, and called for EU policies to help make the zero-emission technology commercially viable.
The rival German and Swedish makers of large freight-hauling trucks formed their venture, cellcentric, in March. They said they would provide more details on large-scale fuel production in 2022, but said cellcentric was already scaling up prototype output.
“Partnerships like cellcentric are vital to our commitment to decarbonising road transport,” Volvo Chief Executive Martin Lundstedt said in a statement.
Aside from the fuel-cell joint venture, the two companies remain competitors. Both hope to test fuel-cell trucks in about three years and start mass producing trucks in the second half of this decade.
The European Union has been pushing tighter emission standards, fuelling a boom in zero-emission electric cars.
But batteries in electric vehicles are very heavy and hydrogen fuel cells are seen as a potentially more viable zero-emission power system for long-haul freight in the future. Fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen, emitting only water.
The two truck makers called for the construction of around 300 hydrogen refueling stations suitable for heavy-duty vehicles in Europe by 2025 and about 1,000 stations by 2030.
During a video conference with the two firms, European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said the EU executive would this summer propose a revised alternative fuels directive.
She said this “will include binding requirements for rolling out hydrogen fueling infrastructure … and financial support will be available where needed.”
Automaker Stellantis said this year it would begin deliveries in Europe of its first medium-sized vans powered by hydrogen fuel cells by the end of 2021.
Stellantis said at the time that Germany had 90 hydrogen stations and France had 25 – a tiny fraction of the thousands of petrol stations available for fossil-fuel vehicles today.
As zero-emission trucks are significantly more expensive than fossil-fuel models, Daimler and Volvo said a “policy framework is needed to ensure demand and affordability.”
The two companies said policies should include subsidies for “CO2-neutral technologies and a taxation system based on carbon and energy content.”
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]