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Will hydrogen trucks be the sustainable carrier of the future?

The pandemic reminded businesses how vulnerable the economy is. Over the past two years, the outbreak has caused direct impacts on income, workplace absenteeism and reduced productivity. This has created a negative supply shock, with manufacturing slowing due to global supply chain disruptions and factory closures.

Because of this situation and with the global energy transition underway, companies are looking for more sustainable and affordable solutions for their business.

One of the major climate challenges is the decarbonisation of the transport sector. The EU has announced that it wants to reduce CO2 emissions from trucks by one third by 2030, which is part of the European plan to achieve zero emissions.

What is a hydrogen fuel cell truck?

A hydrogen fuel cell truck is a commercial municipal, military, or personal work vehicle that employs an all-electric propulsion system which uses hydrogen fuel cells as its primary energy source.

This chemical element burns cleanly, with zero emissions, so the main advantage of using this technology is that it keeps the air cleaner and reduces potential risks to lung health.

In addition, all fuel cell electric vehicles operate with electricity produced in a fuel cell. Part of that electricity is used immediately and part is stored in a battery. Because the amount of energy stored in the system is determined by the size of its tanks, a hydrogen fuel cell truck or bus can have a much smaller battery than a fully electric truck or bus. It can also be filled very quickly, to maximise productivity.

The US and South Africa launched the world’s biggest green hydrogen powered truck

Recently, the mining giant Anglo American has unveiled the world’s largest hydrogen-powered truck at a platinum mine in northern South Africa.

Four years ago, the company couldn’t find any partner to support its idea of replacing open-pit mining monster trucks with climate-friendly, green fueled vehicles. The company invested $70 million to support the project and ended up announcing a new 220-ton vehicle capable of carrying around 290 tons of ore without producing emissions in the process.

The new project also includes a solar-powered system for producing green hydrogen: an electrolyzer uses energy from the sun to split water and create hydrogen. Burning hydrogen releases only water vapour, not heat-trapping carbon dioxide as in the case of fossil fuels.

Duncan Wanblad, Anglo American’s chief executive, said the company considered synthetic fuels and biofuels before it became “crystal clear” that hydrogen was the solution.


Read also: South Africa pushes on investments for economic transformation.

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