Even in the Australian truck market, which is some way behind those in Europe, North America and China we can start to get an idea of how zero emission options are developing and how the likely options will roll out.
The first zero emissions trucks to make an appearance are the light and medium duty battery electric vehicles (BEV). These are the simplest solutions and the kind of freight tasks they handle are the low hanging fruit of carbon free trucking.
For these trucks tare mass is relatively unimportant, they often run short distances in urban environments and are parked up back at their depot at night. This means the charging issue can be solved by relatively low power chargers back at the depot, over a period like eight hours. The trucks already running on the road in Australia, like the SEA Electric, Fuso eCanter and the electric Volvo FL trucks are all working in freight tasks which fit this kind of profile.
Over time, the number of these trucks will increase as the concept becomes more familiar and will accelerate, if incentives are introduced to increase the take up of low carbon emission trucks. As the take-up increases the BEVs will start to appear in tasks which are not quite so suitable for the basic BEV.
Operators will start to find the limitations of the BEV and turn to other alternatives like hydrogen fuel cell, for example, when the limitations created by long charging times or trucks with a relatively low range become an issue.
Although there are plenty of hydrogen powered trucks being given a lot of publicity, there seems to be more hyperbole than high performance in the hydrogen fuel cell truck world at this moment. However, there are some notable exceptions like the 50 Hyundai Xcient fuel cell trucks handling a number of freight tasks around Switzerland.
This technology is maturing fast and all of the major truck manufacturers have evaluation models on the road in one form or another.
One limiting factor is likely to be supply infrastructure for hydrogen, and more particularly for green hydrogen, which gets fuel cell technology closer to zero carbon in a well-to-wheel sense. The development of a substantial supply infrastructure is going to take time, but Australia may be able to become a leader in this area with our abundant sunshine, which is ideal to produce solar power to run electrolysers and use them to use desalinated water to make green hydrogen.