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Daimler Truck & Volvo Group to Develop Fuel Cell Trucks in a New Joint Venture

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【Summary】Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group have announced a new 50/50 joint venture for development and large-scale production of fuel cells for applications in heavy-duty vehicles, such as long-haul semi trucks.

Eric Walz    Apr 21, 2020 9:00 AM PT
Daimler Truck & Volvo Group to Develop Fuel Cell Trucks in a New Joint Venture

While battery-powered vehicles make the most headlines in the auto industry, for larger commercial trucks, electrification is not always practical. A large electric semi-truck requires a massive and heavy battery pack, which takes up a large volume of space and adds a significant amount of weight. 

The batteries also take much longer to charge compared to a smaller electric car. This is why fuel cell trucks powered by hydrogen might be a more practical solution for the trucking industry and two of the world's biggest automakers are teaming up to co-develop fuel cell technology and trucks.

Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group have announced a new 50/50 joint venture for development and large-scale production of fuel cells for applications in heavy-duty vehicles, such as long-haul semi trucks. 

The two companies have already signed a preliminary non-binding agreement to establish a new joint venture. 

The Volvo Group and Daimler Truck AG will be 50/50 partners in the joint venture, which will operate as an independent entity. The Volvo Group will acquire 50% in the joint venture for approximately EUR 0.6 billion ($US651 million) on a cash and debt free basis.

The goal of the new venture is to develop, produce and commercialize fuel cell systems for heavy-duty vehicle applications and other use cases. Daimler said it will consolidate all its current fuel cell activities in the new joint venture.

The two companies plan to have heavy-duty fuel cell powered trucks in series production in the second half of the decade. Other automotive and non-automotive use cases are also part of the new joint venture's scope, the companies said.

"By forming this joint venture, we are clearly showing that we believe in hydrogen fuel cells for commercial vehicles. But for this vision to become reality, other companies and institutions also need to support and contribute to this development, not least in order to establish the fuel infrastructure needed," says Martin Lundstedt, Volvo Group President and CEO.

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A assembly line for a fuel cell unit at Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell GmbH in Nabern, Germany.

The joint venture is expected to decrease development costs for both companies and accelerate the market introduction of fuel cell systems in products used for heavy-duty transport and long-haul shipping.

Instead of relying on a lithium-ion battery, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. The electricity produced is enough to power the vehicle's electric motors. The only byproduct of the process is water, so fuel cell powered vehicles are 100% emission free. 

The trucks store the hydrogen in onboard tanks, which can be refilled in about 15 minutes at a hydrogen filling station, much faster than current EV batteries can be recharged. For commercial trucks, using hydrogen instead of batteries reduces downtime and increases utilization, an important goal of the trucking industry.

"For trucks to cope with heavy loads and long distances, fuel cells are one important answer and a technology where Daimler has built up significant expertise through its Mercedes-Benz fuel cell unit over the last two decades.  This joint initiative with the Volvo Group is a milestone in bringing fuel cell powered trucks and buses onto our roads," said Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management Daimler Truck AG and Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG.

Successful commercialization of fuel cell technology is an important goal to achieve carbon neutral transport, especially in Europe, where the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions 15% by 2025 and 30% by 2030. By 2050, the EU goal is to be carbon-neutral. 

As part of the joint venture, Daimler Trucks is bringing together all of its group-wide fuel cell activities under "Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell GmbH", which is responsible for research and development of fuel cell systems for motor vehicles, including hydrogen storage systems, and the development of hydrogen infrastructure for refilling the fuel cell trucks.

Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell GmbH was founded in 1997. The new joint venture will include the operations in Nabern, Germany its current headquarters, as well as production facilities in Germany and Canada.


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