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The Prospect of Fuel Cell Trucks in Hydrogen Economies is Intriguing for Companies That Pursue Zero-emission Mobility Solutions
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Globally, countries are increasingly adopting policies to increase the pace of transition toward zero emission. Governments are evaluating different pathways to achieve carbon neutrality, and investments, and activities in the energy sector are directed around it. Commercial vehicles currently are among the major carbon emitters, with very high per-unit emission rate and, hence, take a sizable focus in the regulatory authority’s purview for a faster and smooth transition. Countries all over the world are taking important and organized steps to curb carbon emissions in the direction of transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy, and this is reflecting in the high standards of permissible automotive emission limits and the continual increase of stringency levels in the last few years. As the room for improvement of diesel powertrain performance narrows, OEMs are forced to invest hugely into vehicle technology and development of alternative powertrain solutions. Battery electric and fuel cell electric powertrains are the two major verticals of development for manufacturers globally for all mobility applications.Hydrogen is emerging as a key source of energy to better manage and store the excess electricity generated through sustainable power generation methods such as solar and wind. Currently, almost all global hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels. Green hydrogen is a long-term alternative that generates hydrogen only through renewable resources with zero emission. Green hydrogen has very high societal acceptance and is recognized as the best potential pathway to sustainable energy and zero-emission power utilization in hydrogen energy scenarios, but it remains costly at present.Conventional technologies with Carbon Capture Storage and Utilization (CCSU) will remain the short-to-medium term production pathway due to relative cost advantages. Investments and activities to explore low or zero carbon emission hydrogen production will be highly consequential and have an impact on the realization of hydrogen ambitions and also influence timely market absorption. The global trend observed is the exponential increase in year-on-year budget for hydrogen research, production, and application as countries recognize hydrogen as potential pathway for carbon neutrality. Cost competitiveness will determine the degree to which hydrogen will play a role in driving the trend forward. Cost-effective, low-carbon production is the primary target of most countries.The development of hydrogen fuel cells for mobility applications is gaining traction, and given the various public and private sector initiatives to propel hydrogen mobility, there are immense growth opportunities worldwide for fuel cell trucks. Propelling fuel cell trucks will be largely driven by incentives available for fleets, especially during the initial transition period, to alleviate pressures of high vehicle cost, infrastructure installment, and hydrogen price. Attractive incentive programs are required to motivate fleets to adopt fuel cell trucks. Overall, the mobility industry is at crossroads to take critical decisions and strategic choices to ensure long-term growth and sustainability. Technology leadership, financial prowess, and robust supply chain are essential to be competitive in emerging market opportunities. Manufacturers, suppliers, and relevant ecosystem participants are faced with the objective to establish technology progress, infrastructure footprint, and cost favorability to enable commercial-scale deployment of fuel cell trucks.One of the major hurdles to transition to fuel cell trucks among many is the lack of sufficient refueling infrastructure and the limitation of onboard hydrogen storage. The trucks that are currently in operation offer only restricted range, as companies are working to push the boundaries of current limitations. Governments across the world are engaging with major companies, research institutes, and material labs to explore the potential of fuel cell trucks while offering financial support, technological guidance, and dedicated test facilities. Platform modularity is imperative considering the limited window of transition period, to enable companies achieve economies of scale globally.Currently, there are several medium- and heavy-duty fuel cell trucks in the trial phase that have been launched in limited numbers, with more models in the development phase and targets to commence trials and large-scale commercialization. Companies are working to overcome the barriers that limit the performance of fuel cell trucks and achieve product metrics that will enable fuel cell trucks to be positioned along with battery electric solutions. Companies are expanding into new markets through direct ventures or partnerships, with very high rate of collaborations and joint ventures between incumbent participants, powertrain companies, Tier 1 suppliers, and infrastructure companies in the recent years. Supply chain readiness will be vital for manufacturers, to ramp up production volumes when the market demand for fuel cell trucks surges. As companies are provided with the targets to reduce overall fleet emission, they will be forced to push zero-emission trucks as a viable solution for customers. With fuel cell trucks being a prospective solution for long-haul applications, companies need to expedite technological choices and product development processes, and validate vehicle performance at the earliest.
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