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Accelerating the deployment of hydrogen freight vehicles

When it comes to exploring the possible zero-emission solutions for HGVs, there are usually three proposed solutions – battery electric vehicles, overhead catenary-powered vehicles, and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Of these three, the last – hydrogen – attracts both passionate enthusiasm from its supporters and hard-eyed scepticism from its detractors.


TRL, formerly known as Transport Research Laboratory, is attempting to take a cool, objective approach to the potential of hydrogen to power the nation’s heaviest road vehicles. Its UK Aggregated Hydrogen Freight Project is a study into a nationwide deployment of hydrogen freight vehicles and associated hydrogen refuelling station networks.

Part of the ZERFT (zero emissions road freight trials) programme, the UK Aggregated Hydrogen Freight Project is being delivered by Element Energy, TRL and Toyota and consists of 20 projects focussed on helping the UK solve challenges around zero emission road freight.


The objective of this project is to produce a comprehensive report for government which assesses the feasibility of a nationwide hydrogen truck roll-out over the next five years. Although its focus will be on 44-tonne trucks, the study will also explore opportunities presented by lighter freight vehicles. Part of the study will scope a first trial for a nationwide network of accessible hydrogen refuelling stations, serving a representative fleet of 44-tonne right-hand-drive trucks.

The publication of the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan in the summer, and its associated consultation on phasing out the sale of new diesel trucks, has increased the sense of urgency for both OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and operators to develop feasible zero-emission alternatives.


Although major OEMs are developing the first hydrogen fuel cell trucks, the majority of these vehicles are currently targeted at non-UK markets. Without intervention, 44-tonne vehicles are not likely to arrive in the UK until the late 2020s, putting it at risk of lagging behind its EU neighbours.

The UK Aggregated Hydrogen Freight Project is a vehicle operator-led plan which aims to use aggregated demand to enable OEMs to provide UK-ready hydrogen trucks by 2025 and enable a refuelling infrastructure build-up. The group involves an ongoing discussion between truck fleet operators, OEMs and hydrogen providers. It has demonstrated that a meaningful roll-out is feasible in the period to 2025, once several issues have been resolved, mainly relating to minimum order thresholds for OEMs and vehicle number commitments for hydrogen station providers.


Another pre-condition is for an early UK Zero-Emission Road Freight Trial. The UK Aggregated Hydrogen Freight Consortium is currently developing a project with Hyundai to deploy 30 fuel cell Xceint trucks in the UK in 2023, for a standard five-to-seven-year operational period. These trucks will be fuel cell, 19 tonne, rigid, left hand drive vehicles that are currently being demonstrated in Switzerland.

The consortium is now looking for operators to work with Hyandai, with a view to committing to take between five and 10 of the 30 trucks and operate them on a major UK trunking route as part of the UK-funded Zero Emission Freight Trial.

Michelle Gardner, Head of Public Policy, Logistics UK, said: “It has long been recognised by government and industry that HGVs are among the most challenging and difficult vehicles to decarbonise. It is vital, therefore, that hydrogen fuel cell technology is thoroughly investigated as a potential zero-emission solution for the heaviest end of the commercial fleet. We urge any members potentially interested in working on this exciting project to contact UK Aggregated Hydrogen Freight Consortium without delay.”


Published On: 23/09/2021 16:00:43


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