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Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells A Realistic Answer To Decarbonising Road Transport?

Green hydrogen has been one of the green energy options on the table for several years now with a wide variety of industrial applications, including road vehicles. But can a logistics company rely on hydrogen as the sustainable alternative for road transport? Is it time to start investing in new vehicles and infrastructure to produce and distribute green hydrogen?

Hydrogen technology is clearly evolving fast. However there have been few detailed studies using data to look at the practicalities of operating trucks powered by hydrogen. Truck manufacturers have moved on from prototypes to commercialise hydrogen-powered trucks alongside diesel vehicles. However, logistics companies do not yet have the knowledge to take strategic investment decisions. Is it the right choice, can it work on the ground, are the environmental benefits really so great?

They need to know what the cost is. Are hydrogen powered trucks an economically viable solution to move towards zero or near zero emissions? And is there an economic model that works in the context of logistics transport? 

BIG QUESTIONS DEMAND THE INVOLVEMENT OF MAJOR PLAYERS

First, these questions need to be answered at an international level.  In fact, the European Commission realising their importance, set up a public-private partnership to support research, technological development and demonstrations in fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe. This structure is the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU). https://www.fch.europa.eu/page/members

FCH JU needed to formulate business cases to analyse market potential for the use of FCH (Fuel Cells and Hydrogen) based on detailed use cases looking at freight load, route and range, to focus in on specific potential opportunities.

FM Logistic sees hydrogen as a possible solution in contributing to its strategic vision of providing end-to-end sustainable logistics solutions. Therefore, it seized on the opportunity to become closely involved in investigating possible solutions by joining the advisory board of the FCH Study, financed by FCH JU and bringing together 53 companies from 15 European countries.

DETAILED RESULTS POINT TO NEW POSSIBILITIES

The leading global consultancy firm Roland Berger was undertaking the FCH study . FM Logistic provided detailed data from its current operations to model one of the nine use cases. FM Logistic provided a use case with anonymized data flows from an FMCG client in the Strasbourg region. They analyzed transport flows in detail, to see how trucks, fuelled by hydrogen fuel-cells and powered by electric motors, could contribute to more eco-efficient operations. They also analyzed how they compared to alternative fuel sources.

The objectives were to determine the direct and indirect costs of the hydrogen fuel-cell option. It was also to show in which circumstances hydrogen transport would be most appropriate. In this instance, the study found that the FCH technology could meet customer requirements in terms of reach, payload capacity, refuelling time and carbon footprint. 

In terms of economics, the results show that FCH trucks have a cost premium of up to approximately 32% in 2023. They are also competitive in 2030 on a tonne per kilometre basis. The gap for this zero-emission solution is already very small by 2027. The study found that FCH technology would work well in this scenario, with a heavy payload and on regular and predictable routes. 

One particular advantage of the hydrogen fuel cell is the rapid refuelling time compared to battery electric vehicles (BEV). BEVs can operate at approximately the same cost as FCH vehicles, but the almost 24-hour operation does not leave enough time for the long charging time required with the technologies known so far.

FM LOGISTIC CAN TAKE A LEAD IN THE ENERGY TRANSITION

FM Logistic was keen to be part of this major study. Some very concrete and promising results were shown, that support its objective of providing end-to-end sustainable logistics solutions. 

Moreover, FM Logistic wants to decarbonize transport activities which represent 2/3 of its global carbon footprint. More importantly, logistics solutions which are : effective, sustainable and boost economic and environmental performance, are a competitive advantage.

Beyond that, FM Logistic wants to be part of a broader ecosystem. The H2Hub project proposes using renewable energy to produce green hydrogen. Not only to fuel trucks and forklifts but to be distributed to local authorities, local industry and other logistics companies. In the end, it will foster virtuous local ecosystems thanks to its warehouses.

In this way, FM Logistic can have an impact on the energy transition of regions, increasing green mobility options for the population, and fostering jobs and value creation.

A CLEARER PATH TO DECARBONISING THE LOGISTICS SECTOR

Finally, the results from this major study encourage us on our path to decarbonising our activities thanks to hydrogen. Previous assumptions based on less concrete research had suggested that a hydrogen solution may not be economically viable before 2035-2040. With this study indicating that FCH trucks could be introduced into our fleet by 2030, we can move on at greater speed, with confidence.
Check out our article about how logistics company can hold a key to the transition to green energy !

 

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