Every day, tens of thousands of large lorries and trucks criss-cross countries and continents, providing the logistics and deliveries that sustain our daily lives. Almost all of these vehicles are diesel-powered. But, as the world faces up to the reality of the Paris Agreement, that has to change. Hydrogen power is a very real alternative solution that could produce virtually emission-free logistics in the future.
“40 tonne trucks are the backbone of transportation across the industry” says Michael Himmen from NPROXX. “Converting these vehicles to run on hydrogen fuel cells is not easy, but it is certainly possible. Siting the tanks themselves is possibly the biggest challenge. There are two places they can go: outside of the frame rail, on either side of the truck; or stacked behind the cab.”
Today’s diesel vehicles tend to use tanks sat outside of the framerail too. Often these are cuboid-shaped, but for hydrogen, the tanks have to be cylinders to support the pressure within. “At NPROXX we have a working system that uses two large-diameter tanks stacked on each side to deliver a total of around 1200 litres of volume at 700 bar pressure” explains Michael. “That produces a very cost-effective tank solution for a vehicle of this size. Realistically, that volume of fuel could run a lorry for 10 hours and produce around 700km of range.”
Stacking tanks behind the cab, however, presents more challenges. “It’s harder to achieve cost efficiency here as the tanks have to be smaller. This means more carbon fibre used, more cost and lower efficiency” explains Michael. “However, it is possible to extend range up to around 1000km on one fill using tanks behind the cab, and therefore in some applications this can be worthwhile.”
Another challenge comes from the filling location. “Even with multiple tanks, sited around the truck, it makes sense to only have one central filling location” explains Michael. “At NPROXX we are developing innovative, reliable and leak-tight systems that can easily manage the fill of multiple tanks with consistent pressures across all pressure vessels.”
The expertise is not something that most truck manufacturers around the world can lay claim to having. “At NPROXX we have the expertise and experience to deal with high pressure hydrogen applications” says Michael. “We can provide a proven standardized system that solves the high-pressure fuel storage challenge and enables truck manufacturers to make the switch to hydrogen. “