General Motors, after flubbing its deal with Nikola, eyes a new hydrogen truck project

Normal Motors, which just a few months in the past was compelled to ditch its plans to acquire an equity stake in troubled hydrogen truck startup Nikola, is able to transfer on. In the present day, the automaker introduced it was teaming up with Illinois-based trucking agency Navistar and OneH2, a North Carolina-based hydrogen gasoline cell firm, to place extra hydrogen-powered long-haul vans on the highway.

The three firms, together with JB Hunt Transport Providers, are planning to roll out “a whole resolution” for a fleet of professional quality, zero-emission, hydrogen gasoline cell vans. The transfer is further evidence that automakers are persevering with to position enormous bets on hydrogen, probably the most ample component within the universe, regardless of main fueling limitations.

As a part of the deal, Navistar will introduce a brand new gasoline cell automobile in 2024, known as the Worldwide RH Collection truck. Check variations of the truck will roll out previous to that in 2022. The businesses are aiming for a gasoline cell automobile with a powertrain able to “500+ miles” of vary and a refueling time of lower than quarter-hour.

(Tesla has promised that its battery electrical Semi truck could be able to touring as much as 500 miles on a single cost — although that automobile has but to enter manufacturing.)

Right here’s how Navistar is describing the Worldwide RH Collection truck’s propulsion system:

The Worldwide RH Collection FCEV [fuel cell electric vehicle] will get its vitality from two GM Hydrotec gasoline cell energy cubes. Every Hydrotec energy dice comprises 300-plus hydrogen gasoline cells together with thermal and energy administration methods. They’re compact and straightforward to package deal into many alternative functions.

The mixed propulsion system throughout the Worldwide RH Collection FCEV will function higher energy density for short-range journey, higher short-burst kW output and a per-mile price anticipated to be corresponding to diesel in sure market segments.

Hydrogen gasoline cells — which use compressed hydrogen as their gasoline and launch solely water vapor as an emission — have been in growth for many years, however solely just lately have they attained efficiency and vary numbers adequate to exchange a median driver’s gasoline-powered automotive.

That mentioned, hydrogen as a preferred gasoline supply has been stymied by an virtually full lack of a fueling infrastructure. There are at present 39 public hydrogen fueling stations in California (with one other 25 in growth), together with a pair in Hawaii. The East Coast is attempting to get in on the motion. A handful of stations are up and operating, and extra are within the works in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Specialists predict that business autos, like vans and forklifts, may benefit extra from hydrogen because of entry to centralized, industrial fueling stations. Different automakers have expressed curiosity in hydrogen-powered vans, too. In 2019, Toyota unveiled a gasoline cell truck idea as a part of a feasibility examine by the Port of Los Angeles, which figures in to the port’s efforts to cut back dangerous emissions. However the Japanese carmaker has but to commit to creating that idea a actuality.

Nikola has been the largest instance of hydrogen’s guarantees — and pitfalls. The startup claimed its H2-powered truck may have an operational vary of as a lot as 1,200 miles when it was launched in 2020. That by no means occurred, although the corporate did spend most of final 12 months watching its valuation soar to new heights because of the meteoric rise in Tesla’s inventory value. Because the hype grew, GM introduced it could purchase an 11 % stake within the buzzy firm, whereas additionally lending a hand with Nikola’s battery-electric and hydrogen gasoline cell autos, together with the Badger pickup truck.

That every one collapsed when short-selling agency Hindenburg Analysis published a bombshell report accusing Nikola of fraud in showcasing its electrical automobile know-how. Nikola founder Trevor Milton stepped down as board chairman, and later GM ended its equity arrangement with the corporate. The 2 firms nonetheless plan on collaborating on gasoline cell Class 7 and Class 8 vans.

Navistar is a much less dangerous guess for GM. The corporate was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2016, having squandered billions of {dollars} on a diesel engine that did not win the approval of the Environmental Protections Company. After US regulators announced new rules to reduce carbon emissions from big trucks, placing strain on Navistar to discover a know-how associate, Volkswagen swooped in to buy a minority stake in the company. Navistar has since been on extra secure footing.

Navistar doesn’t solely make vans — the Lisle, Illinois-based firm additionally owns Worldwide Vehicles, which encompasses a wide range of medium-duty vans, and IC Bus, which makes buses and business autos. Final 12 months, the corporate took an fairness stake in TuSimple, a number one autonomous automobile startup, and introduced plans to construct a self-driving semi truck that may function with out a human driver on highways and native roads.

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