Why the future of long-haul heavy trucking probably includes lots of hydrogen

The climate crisis requires that we decarbonize our global transportation systems. To meet this requirement, the purported solution for some time has been “electrify everything.”

Technical experts and the climate-concerned public alike have long pushed the idea that the future will be one of clean electricity that powers just about all aspects of our life. I bought in — at least for a time. It wasn’t until I began studying the details surrounding the challenges of putting a battery into a car, truck or container ship that I realized that things are much more complicated than ascribing to an aspirational motto.

To be clear, batteries probably will make great sense for certain elements of trucking. In fact, well-known companies in the electric vehicle space, such as Tesla, have a product on the horizon to address medium-haul, 300- to 500-mile operating ranges. However, specifically for long-haul routes, I argue there is a technology more suited to the task: the hydrogen fuel cell.

Fuel cell trucks use the same basic electric drivetrain as battery trucks (and even have a battery) but due to their on-board hydrogen storage, fuel cell trucks have a much longer range, require fewer stops on long routes, can be fueled much faster and have less risk of lost cargo capacity.