A hydrogen-powered commercial truck built by Hyundai was set to begin hauling groceries in Switzerland in April, representing the first of 1,600 fuel cell electric trucks that the manufacturer plans to put on highways in the Alpine nation by 2025.
While fuel cell truck tests also are underway in the United States and elsewhere, these early trips in Switzerland are the initial steps toward the creation of a hydrogen-fueled highway delivery network built on a clear business case.
Switzerland levies a performance-related fee on heavy vehicles based on weight, emissions and distance driven on public roads within the country that works out to roughly $1 per kilometer traveled. Green vehicles, however, are exempt. That gives Hyundai’s venture the headroom to create a sustainable business as it hauls freight for Coop and Migros, Switzerland’s two largest retailers.
Advocates long have pitched hydrogen fuel cell technology as green transport. It was the technology that was always just around the corner but never quite here as companies dabbled in it but could never figure out a commercialization plan.
To be sure, there are still obstacles, mainly fueling infrastructure and the high cost of the trucks compared with their tried and true diesel counterparts. But the combination of expected bans on the use of diesel transport in many regions, government incentives and technological advances now could make fuel cell commercial vehicles a legitimate transport option.
Hyundai is far from alone in its pursuit of hydrogen-powered trucking.
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