Truck Makers Face Choice: Go Battery or Hydrogen？
Even before war in Ukraine sent fuel prices through the roof, the trucking
industry was under intense pressure to kick its addiction to diesel, a
major contributor to climate change and urban air pollution. But it still
has to figure out which technology will best do the job.
Truck makers are divided into two camps. One faction, which includes Traton,
Volkswagen’s truck unit, is betting on batteries because they are widely
regarded as the most efficient option. The other camp, which includes Daimler
Truck and Volvo, the two largest truck manufacturers, argues that fuel cells
that convert hydrogen into electricity — emitting only water vapor — make more
sense because they would allow long-haul trucks to be refueled quickly.
The choice companies make could be hugely consequential, helping to
determine who dominates trucking in the electric vehicle age and who
ends up wasting billions of dollars on the Betamax equivalent of
electric truck technology, committing a potentially fatal error.
It takes years to design and produce new trucks, so companies will
be locked into the decisions they make now for a decade or more.
“It’s obviously one of the most important technology decisions we
have to make,” said Andreas Gorbach, a member of the management
board of Daimler Truck, which owns Freightliner in the United States
and is the largest truck maker in the world.
The stakes for the environment and for public health are also high.
If many truck makers wager incorrectly, it could take much longer
to clean up trucking than scientists say we have to limit the worst
effects of climate change. In the United States, medium- and
heavy-duty trucks account for 7% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Although sales of electric cars are exploding, large truck makers
have only begun to mass-produce emission-free vehicles. Daimler
Truck, for example, began producing an electric version of its
heavy-duty Actros truck, with a maximum range of 240 miles,
late last year. Tesla unveiled a design for a battery-powered
2017 but has not set a firm production date.
Cost will be a decisive factor. Unlike car buyers, who might
splurge on a vehicle because they like the way it looks or
the status it conveys, truck buyers carefully calculate how
much a rig is going to cost them to buy, maintain and refuel.
文／Jack Ewing 譯／陳韋廷