Fuel cell technology is set to take off in the commercial vehicle market with two major US companies setting out plans to develop hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
UPS is to deploy a prototype extended range fuel cell electric vehicle in its Rolling Laboratory fleet of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. It is working with the US Department of Energy and other partners to design a first-of-its-kind, zero tailpipe emissions, Class 6 medium-duty delivery truck that meets the same route and range requirements of UPS’s existing conventional fuel vehicles.
And truck manufacturer Kenworth, a sister company of DAF, is developing a prototype Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell tractor unit.
The T680 day cab tractor uses lithium-ion batteries to power a dual-rotor electric motor, driving the rear tandem axle through a 4-speed automated transmission. Kenworth’s hydrogen truck is expected to be ready for initial track and on-road testing in the fourth quarter of this year.
The UPS vehicle will use the on-board fuel cell to generate electricity to propel the vehicle.
The first FCEV prototype will be deployed in Sacramento, California, where UPS will validate its design and core performance requirements by testing it on the street starting the third quarter of 2017.
Current project plans call for additional UPS trucks to be validated with at least 5,000 hours of in-service operational performance. All of the trucks will be deployed in California due to that state’s on-going investment in zero tailpipe emissions transport and instalment of hydrogen fuelling stations around the state.
“The challenge we face with fuel cell technology is to ensure the design can meet the unique operational demands of our delivery vehicles on a commercial scale,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president global engineering and sustainability. “This project is an essential step to test the zero tailpipe emissions technology and vehicle on the road for UPS and the transport industry.”
As well as the fuel cell vehicle, Kenworth has also started building a second prototype series hybrid-electric T680 day cab. The truck will use the currently available Cummins Westport ISL G Near Zero NOx engine fuelled by compressed natural gas (CNG) to generate electrical power. Initial track and road testing is expected to start in the fourth quarter.
These two T680 tractors will be identical, with the exception of their power generation systems. Each truck will have an electric-only range of approximately 30 miles, and the on-board fuel – hydrogen or natural gas –will provide sufficient range for a full day in regional haul applications.