Volvo CE testing hydrogen articulated hauler
By Adam FreillConstruction Equipment Equipment Technology Green Construction
Volvo Construction Equipment has started testing of the world’s first fuel cell articulated hauler prototype.
Acting on its Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) commitment of net-zero value chain greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, and driving industry transformation towards carbon neutrality, Volvo CE has accelerated its work into sustainable power sources with the testing of a world-first emission-free hydrogen fuel cell articulated hauler prototype, the Volvo HX04.
“Being inventors of the world’s first articulated hauler more than 55 years ago, we are happy and proud to again drive change with this fuel cell hauler concept,” says Carolina Diez Ferrer, head of advanced engineering programs at Volvo CE. “While an early prototype, this innovation will give valuable insights into the opportunities of hydrogen in the energy transformation alongside battery-electric solutions. We believe that by exploring multiple technologies and working in partnership we can create the best path forward to decarbonize the construction industry.”
The Volvo HX04 is the result of a research project running between 2018 and 2022, with funding from FFI, a national collaboration between the Swedish Innovation Agency VINNOVA, Swedish Energy Agency, and Swedish Transport Administration, to support sustainable vehicle strategic research, innovation and development. Partners include Volvo CE, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, who provided specialist competence on driveline development and safety, and PowerCell Sweden, a developer of fuel cell-based hydrogen-electric power solutions.
The development and building of the six-wheel prototype has largely been carried out at Volvo CE’s facility in Braås, Sweden, which is where Gravel Charlie, the world’s first articulated hauler, was born back in 1966. In homage to that first, the Volvo HX04 has been given the nickname “Electric Charlie.”
Infrastructure for hydrogen is still in development, which means refueling the Volvo HX04 is an important aspect to solve in the project. Shell installed a state-of-the-art hydrogen refueling station at the Volvo CE test track in Braås. Both Shell and Volvo Group are founding members of H2Accelerate, a collaboration of companies working to foster conditions for the mass market roll-out of hydrogen trucks in Europe.
“Providing the fuelling infrastructure for this innovative project gave Shell the opportunity to demonstrate our technical capabilities in hydrogen, and enabled us to support one of our key global collaboration partners in taking another step forward in their decarbonization journey, which goes to the heart and intent of Shell’s Powering Progress strategy,” says Oliver Bishop, Shell’s general manager for hydrogen mobility.
The Volvo HX04 is charged with 12 kilograms of hydrogen, enabling it to operate for approximately four hours. Its fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen and the resulting chemical reaction produces the electricity that powers the machine. In the process, fuel cells also produce heat that can be used for heating of the cab. The only emissions are water vapour. In principle, a fuel cell works much like a battery except that it generates its own electricity.