The Anonymous Widower

Which Supermarket Group Will Go For Hydrogen First?

The big supermarket groups need to reduce their carbon footprints.

One area, where they can reduce the amount of carbon-dioxide they emit is in transport.

It is my view that battery-powered articulated trucks will not be seen in large numbers, without a significant improvement in battery and charging technology.

But hydrogen-powered articulated trucks have been developed by Hyundai, as I wrote about in Tesla Has A Rival In New Hyundai Hydrogen-Powered Semi-Truck Concept.

Supermarket groups are surely ideal companies to use hydrogen-powered trucks.

They use a centralised distribution system from large depots, generally using articulated trucks.

Trucks would probably fill-up at the beginning of a delivery run at the central depot, just as they probably do with diesel now.

The only problem would be on long deliveries, where they might need to refuel before returning to the depot.

Surely, the obvious thing to do, would be to install a hydrogen filling station alongside the petrol and diesel at some of the larger superstores.

  • Companies like ITM Power build special hydrogen filling stations, that only need connections to electricity and tap water.
  • Provided the supermarket group has a good corporate deal on green electricity, the hydrogen cost to the group should be the same .
  • This filling station would also be able to fill up their hydrogen-powered vans used for local deliveries.
  • Managers and those, who had a company car could be given ones powered by hydrogen.

The filling station could also be used to sell hydrogen to the supermarket’s customers.

Linked with a How Green Is Your Supermarket? advertising campaign, this could see hydrogen-powered vehicle sales take off!

Would other supermarket groups follow like greedy lemmings?

February 10, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,


  1. From personal experience, the daily mileage of a supermarket delivery truck is not huge, in most cases.

    The supermarkets run regional warehouses (although there has been some consolidation of late), and the drivers go out and back in the one shift (one set of driving hours) with multiple drops, no relief driver. There are a few long routes (e.g. far southwest); some supermarkets use trains (often run by Stobart) to take trailers/containers on the long leg from midlands up to mid/north Scotland. If a ferry is required (e.g. Isle of Wight) then the trailer is dropped at ferry port (usually swapped for an empty trailer) and the last mile is done by a local contractor. Sometimes the long routes are handled by two tractors exchanging trailers somewhere in the middle (often at a hub of an outsourced transport provider e.g. Stobart, Wincanton or similar)

    So may not need many hydrogen top up places, potentially just leaving those routes on diesel haulage.

    Trucks used for other kinds of retail may have higher mileage, with more drops. But no obvious place to put a hydrogen pump.

    Hydrogen for grocery ecommerce delivery vans is potentially interesting where these have longer routes (more rural areas), beyond what a pure EV truck could do (allowing for significant power drain of the chiller units). These would justify hydrogen pumps at stores.

    Comment by MilesT | February 10, 2020 | Reply

    • Thanks for all that!

      But take the large connurbations like London, Birmingham, Bristol etc., which are suffering from pollution. I suspect that hydrogen-powered trucks could handle these deliveries and get back to the depot without refueling. What effect would it have on sales, if say ShopHere’s trucks were emblazoned with “This truck is hydrogen-powered and is pollution-free and zero-carbon”

      Remember too, that supermarkets are big sellers of petrol and diesel to the average vehicle-owner and won’t want to lose that cash-flow, so if they see a gap in hydrogen filling station coverage, they will put in a station.

      Comment by AnonW | February 10, 2020 | Reply

      • Exactly, I expect that most large grocery delivery trucks would be able to do a round trip on hydrogen without needing to fill up away from base. That makes hydrogen quite viable for bulk grocery deliveries, but not necessarily adding weight to installation of hydrogen pumps at stores (for en-route topups).

        Advertising on vehicles notwithstanding, the installation of hydrogen at a filling station attached to a store would have to stand on its own commercial merit (with a bit of a boost if the local delivery vans located at the store also used it).

        The other big, polluting use of diesel in the grocery supply chain is the refrigeration units for the trailers. That would be a win if they could last for 12-24 hours on one fill of hydrogen (if not powered by the tractor unit..which would create a greater power requirement for hydrogen for the tractor and a bigger tank).

        By contrast, Tesco is cracking on with installing EV fast chargers in the car parks (in a partnership with Volkswagen). These can be installed at stores which don’t currently have a filling station (or a space for one), but it’s clear from that where Tesco are prioritising their green capital expenditure at present, unsurprising because there is a big enough population of EV/PHEV but few hydrogen at present. Typically the Tesco stores that support grocery home delivery also have a filling station (except in London, where almost all deliveries are now centralised into a handful of dedicated warehouse type locations not open to the public with large numbers of vans)

        Comment by MilesT | February 11, 2020

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