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The Runners and Riders in Reducing Carbon

The recently released report released by the Truck industry Council supplies us with a race card of the runners and riders in reducing carbon.

Hydrogen ICE

On of the new technologies available, which promised to take trucking the trucking industry to the zero carbon emissions got a lot of attention and has been talked about in industry circles after making an appearance at the Brisbane Truck Show last year.

There was a lot of interest on the Cummins stand, where the engine maker was displaying a fuel agnostic engine which was capable of being used with biogas, diesel or hydrogen. Over the longer term, this may well be one of the routes which the trucking industry can go down on the way towards zero emissions.

“Hydrogen ICE requires modifications to the engine and ultimately achieves lower overall efficiencies in both diesel combustion and fuel cell drive times.,” reports TIC.

“While H-ICE does not produce carbon emissions at the tailpipe, it does still produce NOx emissions as a result of the combustion process. These NOx emissions will be capped at the emission standard that is applied when the truck is sold, typically Euro 6, or equivalent.”

Hydrogen is not what could be termed a ‘drop in’ solution. Hydrogen can be used either as a gas or as a liquid, but it can be difficult to manage on a vehicle. There are no H-ICE vehicles yet on sale in Australia.

Hydrogen is available on the market here in Australia but it is not green hydrogen, ie carbon emissions have been produced in its production. Whether it be from it manufacture from natural in the petrochemical industry.

Some small service stations have opened in major cities to supply hydrogen but these are at a very low level, currently. The distribution of hydrogen, especially green hydrogen is expected to take some time to ramp up.

It’s not going to be a solution, in the short term, for anybody running a major fleet in the trucking industry.

Two Hybrids

Hybrid electric trucks have been on the roads of Australia for quite a few years with the Hino hybrid trucks first appearing 15 years ago. This technology is designed to use basic a diesel engine, but also include a battery and a electric motor in the drive line.

Have been able to reduce fuel use, and therefore represent a carbon emissions reduction of at least 20 per cent in most operations. These do not require to be plugged in, as all of the charging of the battery is done either by the diesel engine itself or through regenerative braking when the truck is in motion.

Image: Prime Creative Media

The next stage up from this is the plug in hybrid, none of which are on sale in Australia at the moment. This technology gives operators the option to plug the truck into the power supply, charge the batteries for use on the road but also have a diesel engine as a range extender on the vehicle.

As the battery depletes, the diesel engine can be used to top up the charge in the battery, to allow the vehicle to travel longer distances than would be available on a single charge of the battery.

Fuel Cell Electric

“Fuel cell electric trucks are best thought of as an electric truck as they mainly rely on an electric motor and small battery to drive the wheels, but unlike a typical battery electric or plug in hybrid, most of the energy is stored on board as hydrogen, either as a compressed gas or or liquid,” states the TIC.

“The hydrogen is converted to electricity in an onboard fuel cell and used to both charge a battery and power the motor. The only tailpipe emission from this process is water, making it a very clean alternative technology.”

The issues with this technology are around refuelling and onboard storage. The jury is out whether onboard storage should be as a gas or as a liquid, which has been cryogenically liquefied.

Over time, it may develop that both options become available to the trucking industry in certain situations. There are hydrogen refuelling developments around the country but at its moment, they are relatively limited.


Finally we come to the option which is probably going to be the mainstay for many road transport fleets. around Australia and that’s the battery electric truck.

“BET designs increasingly distribute the battery packs across front and rear axles to better distribute the significant mass of the battery packs,” says TIC.

“BETs typically rely on plug-in recharging but ‘swappable’ systems (where batteries are physically removed from the vehicle and replaced with fully charged ones) are gaining currency, particularly in China.

“Like hybrid electric and plug-in hybrids, BETs also benefit from regenerative braking to recharge the battery while driving, thereby reducing brake wear and energy consumption. BETs do not emit any tailpipe emissions.

“While electricity itself is ubiquitous, the rate of energy flow (current) varies considerably and could be constrained by on-site electrical systems (e.g. depot wiring, switchboard capacity, etc.) or by the broader electricity distribution network.

“Enabling civil and electrical upgrade works can more than double the cost of a charger, depending on the site and existing connections. To date, public recharging infrastructure has been almost entirely focused on the rapidly expanding network for passenger EVs; there are few dedicated heavy vehicle chargers publicly accessible in Australia.”


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