Large trucks full of cargo shuttle back and forth on the highway between Calgary and Edmonton throughout the day. They are part of the Continental Transport Truck Network and can transport everything from blue jeans to steel beams.
Most of the large drilling platforms that travel on these highways use diesel. But starting next year, during the busy traffic in Alberta, two trucks will be powered by hydrogen-a pilot project that will test the technology against Canadian weather, distance and terrain.
“This is a natural place that has truly begun to challenge the limits and prove [the] Concept,” said Chris Nash, president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association, which is leading the $20 million project. “If it works here, it works everywhere. “
The project is unique to Canada, but it is by no means an isolated effort.
Although various companies are looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions, the heavy-duty transportation sector has always been considered one of the most difficult to decarbonize because Governments of the world aim Net zero by 2050. Now, the work aimed at achieving this is increasing.
Daimler is the world’s largest manufacturer of heavy trucks, start testing The hydrogen prototype long-distance truck this spring.Scania, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, is a major manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks and buses, and said this year Pure electric vehicles will Main tools Promote its transition to sustainable transportation.
Other manufacturers that have made waves recently include Hyundai and Nicholas.
“It is not clear which technologies will be the clear winners”
The industry plays a key role in the Canadian economy, approximately 90% Goods hauled by trucks. It is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Pembina Institute, a clean energy think tank, said that the emissions from freight trucks represent More than one-third Canada’s transport-related greenhouse gas emissions include long-distance travel and the “last mile” delivery of goods to people’s doorsteps.
Pembina analyst Maddy Ewing points out In the April report The industry has seen companies take a series of measures to reduce emissions-from improving driver technology to improving vehicle aerodynamics.
She said in an interview that these actions can play a role in the short term. But long term?
“To some extent, it is unclear which technologies will be the clear winners,” Ewing said.
“We do see a huge opportunity to switch from gas-powered trucks to battery or hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks.
“These major shifts require the deep decarbonization that the industry really needs, and the overall reduction in emissions, so that Canada can meet its climate reduction targets.”
Nowadays, electric vehicles have received a lot of attention in the consumer sector—especially automakers, such as General Motors, Made a major commitment to increase the production of electric vehicles in the next few years.
In May, Ford Motor Company demonstrated a prototype car. F-150 Lightning, The electric version of its best-selling pickup.
But when it comes to trucking, things are much more complicated.
Long-distance electric trucks attract attention
For medium and heavy vehicles that follow the planned route in a limited area, electrification is considered a good option. For example, buses, garbage trucks, and delivery trucks.
Montreal Lion Electric It is a Canadian company that has established itself in this field by producing medium- and heavy-duty electric city vehicles (including school buses and trucks).
But experts say the challenge looks different when loading 18-wheelers for long-distance trips.
“Compared with liquid fuel, batteries are heavy-using additional batteries to extend the range of the truck can reduce the weight it can transport,” said one Brookings Institution Report Released last fall.
Another potential obstacle is how long it will take to recharge for an industry whose business is “time is money”-although some experts say that given all the research currently underway, it is too early to judge. .
Long-distance electric trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells have also received attention.
When hydrogen burns, it leaves only water-no carbon dioxide or other more harmful greenhouse gases. Fuel cells powered by hydrogen can be deployed in high energy intensity applications, such as truck transportation.
But how clean it is Depends on its source, And most of the hydrogen produced today is “grey”. It is made from natural gas using a thermal process and will also generate carbon emissions. “Blue” hydrogen is also produced from natural gas, but has carbon emissions Capture and store.
“Green” hydrogen-the use of renewable energy to power the electrolyzer to convert water-is supported by many government cars and energy factories, but it is currently considered Too expensive to be widely used.
Another potential challenge for hydrogen is the infrastructure network needed to support its use, such as pipelines and gas stations.
“The great advantage of electricity is that the distribution system is already in place,” Barry Prentice said. Professor, Department of Supply Chain Management, University of Winnipeg and Manitoba. “You can get electricity almost wherever you need it.”
On the other hand, Prentice said, the energy density of hydrogen provides greater mileage.
The freight industry is paying close attention.
“We can’t predict what will happen in the future-let’s call it the advancement of choice-the future,” Jeffrey Wood said. Senior Vice President of Policy It is the Canadian Trucking Federation.
“Diesel is king now. But that doesn’t mean it will continue this way in the future.”
High hopes for hydrogen, but diesel has nowhere to go
The use of diesel to provide the torque required for heavy loads is not expected to disappear soon.some Industry observers predict It will become the fuel of choice for decades to come.
Nonetheless, Canada’s investment in the discussion is not only because of its emissions targets, but also because it wants to be a participant in whatever happens next.
On the one hand, Alberta and the federal government Have big plans Develop the “blue” hydrogen energy industry and create job opportunities, of which transportation is a potential market.The strategy encountered Criticism from environmentalists, However.
“This is how we redouble our efforts to achieve our common mission,” said Natural Resources Secretary Seamus O’Regan this month after the federal government announced a $2.3 million funding for the Alberta truck project’s hydrogen refueling station.
“Achieving net zero emissions by 2050, and a prosperous economy, continue to create good job opportunities, and a low-carbon future where no one will be left behind, no energy workers and energy production provinces will be left behind.”
Supporters of the Alberta Truck Project believe that hydrogen has the potential to serve Canada’s long-distance transportation sector, and they will accelerate the development of this technology next year.
The Alberta Zero Emission Truck Electrification Cooperation Project is developing two heavy-duty 64-ton hybrid trucks equipped with hydrogen fuel cells. The trucks will be manufactured in Toronto and Montreal and shipped to Edmonton when they are ready.
David Layzell, a partner of the project and the head of the Canadian Energy System Analysis and Research (CESAR) program, said that he does not see the future as a competition between hydrogen energy and electrification. He believes that both will eventually share this path.
“What we need to consider is all the various sectors and the transition path from where we are now to a low-carbon future,” he said.