Experts predict that most HGVs will be powered either by on-board batteries or by hydrogen fuel cells by the year 2070, according to the Guardian. And this week Shell announced that it has added another place for the hydrogen trucks of the future to fill up in the UK.
The oil giant is bringing this feature to its Beaconsfield service station at the side of the M40. This means that it will sit alongside traditional petrol and diesel pumps and is the first of its kind to be positioned beneath a canopy cover in this way.
As with other zero-emissions vehicles, electric motors are used to generate momentum. But rather than storing this energy in batteries, fuel cell technology can turn hydrogen into electricity, with no harmful gasses or substances produced as a result of this reaction
There are several advantages that fuel cell vehicles offer over battery-based alternatives. This includes greater range, lower weight and the promise of faster refuelling times, with no need to wait while recharging occurs.
A Shell spokesperson said that updating this service station on one of the UK’s busiest roads was an important milestone to reach. He claimed that it would give businesses and the general motoring population a greater degree of choice when it comes to selecting the type of vehicles they use.
Infrastructure has been a limiting factor for the uptake of fuel cell trucks and cars so far. And while this is only the second motorway services station to receive hydrogen refuelling capabilities, it could be the beginning of a snowball effect which will eventually lead to the technology sweeping the country.
Government representative Jesse Norman welcomed the move and said that hydrogen was likely to make a major impact on the eco-friendliness of the nation’s transport over the coming decades.
Keeping Up With Market Trends
Shell’s motivations for catering to hydrogen trucks is not solely based on altruism or green ambitions: it has already forecast a fall in demand for oil which will begin over the course of the next ten years. This means that it needs to reshape its core business to keep up with market trends.
Government regulations being imposed across the world are also set to alter the amount of natural gas that it can sell worldwide. So although it does not currently manufacture the hydrogen that is used to power fuel cell vehicles, it could well get into this segment in the near future.
Natural gas-powered trucks from Scania and other major manufacturers are already common. But they still produce harmful emissions and do not have all the advantages of fuel cell alternatives.
Meanwhile, over in the US a number of hydrogen-powered trucks built by Toyota went into service last year as part of a small-scale study to test their viability. The battle for this market is likely to heat up significantly as more companies join the fray, which in turn will help to expand the infrastructure so that such HGVs can be easily refuelled.