Volvo unveils hydrogen-powered trucks that emit water vapor and have 600-mile range

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Volvo unveils hydrogen-powered trucks that emit water vapor and have 600-mile range
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Swedish auto-manufacturer Volvo Trucks has started testing long-haul trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells that only emit water vapor, the company announced this week.

The trucks will be able to tow 65 tons, travel around 1000 km (620 miles) and fuel up in less than 15 minutes, the company said.

They hope to begin selling the trucks by 2030.

Scientists have been interested in using hydrogen to power vehicles for decades because of the potential environmental benefits compared to fossil fuels.

Traditional diesel fuel used in many trucks’s engines emits planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as nitrogen oxides, soot and other pollutants. Hydrogen fuel cells, on the other hand, combine hydrogen with oxygen to produce electricity that powers the vehicle, and water vapor as a by-product.

That being said, much of the world’s hydrogen comes from fossil fuels, CNBC reports. Around 98 per cent of the world’s hydrogen comes from fossil fuels and releases 830 million metric tons of CO2 every year, according to a Columbia University fact sheet. That’s about the same as the yearly emissions from 179 million cars in the United States.

But there are ways to produce hydrogen without fossil fuels by splitting water (H2O) molecules into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity, or what’s known as “green hydrogen”. If the electricity used to split those molecules comes from renewable sources, that hydrogen production and use would produce no CO2 emissions, the Columbia University sheet notes.

The Volvo Trucks press release said that the current limited supply of green hydrogen, as well as hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, remained challenges for the technology.

Currently, nearly all of the hydrogen fuel stations in the United States are in California, which has 47 in total. There are over 100 across Europe.

Volvo isn’t the only company working on hydrogen-powered trucks – other companies like Toyota and Hyundai have also been developing hydrogen models. Volvo Trucks also notes that they’re working on battery-powered electric trucks.

Transportation contributes around 27 per cent of the US’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Of that amount, 26 per cent is due to medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks — with 57 per cent from cars and 8 per cent from airplanes.

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