An industry led $15 million project will test the ability of hydrogen to fuel heavy duty freight transport in Alberta.
Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) will contribute $7.3 million to the Alberta Zero-Emissions Truck Electrification Collaboration (AZETEC) project, which is led by the Alberta Motor Transit Association. Funding by the ERA is coming from the BEST Challenge program which targets technologies that demonstrate a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s the first time that trucks this size – 65,000 kg gross vehicle weight – are being developed using a fuel cell hybrid drive train,” said Jeff Grant, principle for Zen Clean Energy Solutions which is managing the project. “It’s one of the main purposes of the project is to implement this new design.”
Grant added that it is important for Alberta to demonstrate hydrogen “as a transportation fuel,” where instead of petroleum fueled trucks, hydrogen collected from natural gas reserves is used.
AZETEC will run for three years with an 18-month field trial with two heavy-duty extended range hydrogen fuel cell hybrid trucks driven by Bison Transport and Trimac Transportation, which will run freight between Edmonton and Calgary.
The B-Train tractor trailers are capable of travelling up to 700 kilometres between fuelings. By the end of the project, the trucks would have travelled more than 500,000 kilometers and carried about 20 million tonnes of freight.
The hybrid trucks will be able to provide higher torque than diesel fueled trucks and they will have a more efficient powertrain.
“These are not retro-fit vehicles. These are purpose built fuel cell electric trucks. There is non-reoccurring engineering that goes into this…It’ll take about a year to put the trucks together,” said Grant.
If the project is successful in reducing emissions the next step will be to make Alberta a leader in transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
“There is zero emissions at the tail pipe, that’s important. There’s a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The fuel source comes from Alberta…”
In comparison to other zero emission technologies, what hydrogen offers is the energy density and energy storage that would allow you to carry large loads over long distances,” said Grant.
While exhaust coming out of the trucks is water sourcing the hydrogen from natural gas produces carbon dioxide, a major component of greenhouse gases. Research to collect hydrogen without creating carbon dioxide is currently ongoing.
One of the challenges of switching commercial fleets from petroleum to alternate fuels is that there is no infrastructure in place that can re-fuel the trucks when the hydrogen runs out.
“Because the technology is new and is being manufactured in low volumes, there is a premium and a capital cost of the equipment (trucks). That’s one of the challenges to overcome and that’s where government can really help. The other challenge in terms of cost is developing the hydrogen infrastructure to produce, distribute, and dispense the hydrogen. There is an upfront capital cost with that as well that can be challenging,” said Grant.
The AZETEC project will be completed in 2022.