“The fuel cell is the battery’s liberator, not its enemy.” So says London-based EV manufacturer Tevva, which has developed a formula for creating love and peace between the conflicting worlds of EV batteries and hydrogen fuel cell technology. The company’s new battery electric truck expands its fuel cell range to operate during the workday with maximum efficiency and lowest cost.
The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Truck of the Future Isn’t Ready for Prime Time in 2016
Tevva has crossed the road CleanTechnica radar in 2016, when the idea of deploying EV batteries and diesel fuel to power an electric truck was born. The idea was to reserve battery range for urban areas and other sensitive locations, with a diesel range extender filling in the gaps for longer distances, in areas where traffic and congestion don’t allow diesel fumes to build up.
“The new electric truck weighs about 7.5 tons, is manufactured by the Chinese company JAC, has an all-electric range of 130 kilometers (~ 80 miles), has a greater absolute range after the diesel range is extended. It is calculated and uses a 3-phase high-power socket can be recharged in about 3 hours by doing CleanTechnica James Ayre.
If that sounds like a less than ideal solution, it was. However, given the state of both EV battery and fuel cell technology at the time, it was an improvement on the diesel-powered internal combustion scenario.
Here’s the Electric Truck of the Future, with a Hydrogen Fuel Cell
Well, that was the time. Seven years later, Tevva Motors (formerly Teva Motors) is ditching the diesel angle in favor of hydrogen fuel cell technology. Tevva’s new electric trucks feature an electric motor developed in collaboration with Advanced Electric Machines, which gives the company a juicy green marketing angle. The new engine avoids rare earth magnets, freeing Tevva from the environmental impacts of rare earth mining.
Tevva also notes the following advantages of its rare earth motors:
- Cost – rare earth metals are both expensive and volatile – from March 2020 to March 2021, the price of neodymium (the main rare earth element used in engines) increased by 240%.
- Motor complexity – permanent magnet motors with rare earth elements require more cooling than motors without rare earth elements, leading to more complex designs and higher costs.
- Efficiency – a more efficient motor means more range from a given battery size. The faster you can get the engine revving, the more efficient it will be. However, at higher speeds, motors with rare earth elements have difficulty attaching them to the fast-spinning rotor.
Tevva also notes that rare-earth motors require an alternating current to counteract the magnetic field. Combined with other factors, the removal of rare earths results in an efficiency increase of up to 12%.
Where does the hydrogen fuel cell come from?
The hydrogen fuel cell angle came to light on June 30, when Tevva announced that its new 7.5-ton electric truck with a range of up to 500 kilometers would be “the first hydrogen fuel cell-powered heavy-duty vehicle (HGV) to be produced.” and mass produced in the UK.
“Hydrogen has been used safely in buses and other vehicles in more than two dozen countries for many years and has a higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries and even diesel,” Tevva said. “These features make it particularly attractive for use in larger, commercial vehicles.
“By adding a hydrogen fuel cell system to a battery electric HGV design, Tevva provides zero emission solutions that will work for the vast majority of fleet operators across a range of industries and sectors. By charging the battery, the fuel cell system extends the vehicle’s range and allows the truck to carry heavier loads over longer distances,” they explained.
Other truck manufacturers are bringing trucks to market that rely solely on hydrogen fuel cells, but Tevva saw an opportunity to reduce costs by combining fuel cells and batteries.
“One advantage of using the fuel cell as a range extender rather than as the primary power source is that it allows Tevva to introduce smaller, cheaper and lighter fuel cells and operate them with the highest possible efficiency.”
Another key issue for the shipping and logistics industry is time. While charging times for EV batteries are decreasing, they still can’t match the convenience of quick liquid fuel charging. The Tevva truck is designed to match the refueling time of a comparable diesel truck, which they estimate is 5-20 minutes.
Sustainable Hydrogen for the Fuel Cell of the Future
If you’re wondering where all that hydrogen is going to come from, that’s a good question. As part of its customer service package, Tevva refers to “sustainable and affordable hydrogen resources”.
“Tevva is launching a variety of hydrogen suppliers that can provide innovative and hydrogen services to meet the needs of our growing customer base,” they explain.
Asher Bennett, CEO and founder of Tevva, also pointed to sustainable hydrogen, saying, “We firmly believe that the rapidly approaching post-fossil fuel future will see new technologies and fuels take center stage in the transportation industry.”
Considering that the majority of global hydrogen supply today comes from natural gas (and to some extent coal and industrial waste), that’s a pretty tall order.
On the plus side, the green H2 market is exploding. Europe is already the main epicenter of green H2 activity, and green H2 movement is underway in the Baltic Sea. Ukraine is also using its potential as a green H2 exporter to promote its accession to the European Union.
It is likely that Tevva and other fuel cell stakeholders will have a fairly sustainable supply of hydrogen for years to come.
All hands on deck for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Trucks
Who knows, maybe the fuel cell and green hydrogen markets will provide the UK with a way back home. Don’t hold your breath! Meanwhile, the UK is determined to go it alone. The country’s Center for Advanced Mobility has provided funding and collaborative resources to develop Tevva’s new truck as part of its mission to lower the cost of carbon-free mobility devices.
“The launch of this truck, which expands the range of hydrogen fuel cells, is an exciting result of an APC-funded project to completely eliminate CO2 in the tailpipe and reduce the total cost of ownership compared to existing diesel vehicles,” said Zoe Hall, APC’s Head of Competitions and Projects. “With rare earth-free electric motors, this smart zero-emission vehicle has the potential to make heavy-duty transportation sustainable.”
You too, USA
When it comes to US automakers, a leading industry stakeholder once famously compared hydrogen fuel cells to bull poop, among many other headline-chewing predictions. However, it looks like the fuel cell/battery mix is headed for the US.
The company behind the hydrogen fuel cell half of the equation is global company Loop Energy, which last week announced a more than $12 million contract to deliver hydrogen fuel cell technology to Tevva by next year.
“As a result of the contract, which runs through 2024, Tevva becomes the first customer to move into the Full Production Phase of Loop Energy’s Customer Adoption Cycle,” Loop said.
“The zero-emission commercial vehicle market continues to grow rapidly, and this supply agreement with Tevva positions Loop Energy not only as a technology leader, but also as a leader in the fuel cell market,” Loop said.
Loop already has a significant footprint in the US and Canada, as well as Europe and the EU. If all goes according to plan, the new Tevva truck could be making its way to US shores, bull poo or not.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: new electric truck with hydrogen fuel cell and battery, courtesy of Tevva via businesswire.com.
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