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.