The Anonymous Widower

Startup Nikola Bets Hydrogen Will Finally Break Through With Big Rigs

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Forbes.

Read the article, as it is an interesting concept.

  • Nikola Motor will not only build the trucks, but the hydrogen filling station network across North America.
  • They believe big trucks are ideal for hydrogen power.
  • They will also make their hydrogen filling station network available to car makes.
  • The founder of the company; Trevor Milton, claims it’s easier to package hydrogen tanks in big vehicles than small ones.
  • He also claims that hydrogen-powered trucks are much lighter than battery ones.
  • Hydrogen will be produced from renewable sources, where it is needed.
  • They are raising $1.2billion dollars to fund it.

First trucks will be delivered in 2022,, if all goes well with the funding.

I have no idea, whether it will work successfully, but surely a network of hydrogen filling stations, generating their own hydrogen across a Continent could be the kick, that hydrogen power for vehicles needs.

The UK is a small island and comparing it to North America, probably means the concept wouldn’t work in the UK, but if it works in North America, it will work in Europe.

But, if Trevor Milton’s mathematics work for big trucks in North America, they may well work with trains in the UK. A few hydrogen filling stations for trains and locomotives at strategic depots might power a whole new generation of rail vehicles. The rail filling stations could be co-located with filling stations for hydrogen road vehicles.

Trucks In Cities And Large Urban Areas

As I walk around London I see lots of large trucks, that can be put into a few categories.

  • Articulated delivery trucks, often for the big supermarkets.
  • Eight-wheel rigid trucks moving loads of building materials or soil and rubble dug out of construction sites.
  • Refuse trucks.
  • Skip trucks
  • Cement mixer trucks

With the exception of the first, many of these vehicles don’t do a large number of miles in a working day.

Will we see companies like Nikola Motor and others developing hydrogen or battery-powered trucks for these niches?

If they do, I can see some interesting working and fuelling strategies developing.

Would Hydrogen Trucks Be Ideal For Cross-Channel Traffic?

Imagine a journey between Stuttgart and the Toyota plant in Derby.

  • Using the European hydrogen network, the truck arrives at Calais with a low hydrogen level.
  • On arrival in Dover it goes to a convenient hydrogen station and fills up with enough hydrogen to make the five hundred mile return journey to Derby.
  • The return journey to Stuttgart, would use a hydrogen filling station at Calais to speed the truck on it’s way.

Because of the distances involved, I’m sure hydrogen would work for regular high-value truck journeys across the Channel, even if different tractors were used on either side of the Channel, as they often are now!

You could also argue, that this journey would be better done by rail. But if that is the case, why is it so much cross-Channel freight moved by trucks?

Conclusion

Hydrogen will continue to attract innovation and it is not time to write it off yet.

April 16, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. more on this at https://cleantechnica.com/2019/04/22/nikola-motors-shoots-for-the-moon-with-5-new-electric-vehicles-cleantechnica-field-trip/ It’s bizarre that they’ve broken off with their fuel-cell provider. I’d agree with the various comments that this makes their business case look questionable.

    I’ve always been sceptical on fuel-cell cars because of the problems of creating and supplying the fueling stations. Unlike battery cars, which can be refilled at home, supplying every household with hydrogen is impractical (unless hydrogen replaces the domestic gas supply). But, as with buses or trains, this problem doesn’t really arise with big haulage companies, as they just need refueling at their depots, perhaps topped up with hydrogen pumps at motorway service stations.

    Comment by Peter Robins | April 23, 2019 | Reply

    • I wouldn’t bother about the fuel-cell technology. There is a bigger choice out there, as everyone is getting in on the act. These fuel-cells have lots of uses other than transpirtation. Take a read of Arcola Energy’s web site.

      Someone will come up with a modularhydrogen creation and filling atation. One big user of these could be farmers, who want zero-emission vehicles for working fields and with animals. I think there could be a system that uses manure to create heat, electricity, hydrogen and possibly fertiliser. See the Dutch report, I found about hydrogen in North Netherlands!

      Comment by AnonW | April 23, 2019 | Reply


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