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Daimler Trucks Unveils the ‘GenH2' Mercedes-Benz Fuel-Cell Concept Truck

Daimler Trucks Unveils the ‘GenH2' Mercedes-Benz Fuel-Cell Concept Truck

Author: Eric Walz   

While most of the auto industry focuses on developing battery-powered vehicles, the world's truck makers are working on hydrogen-powered fuel trucks as a more viable path towards zero emissions for the shipping industry, including Daimler Trucks.

Daimler Trucks unveiled its new lineup fuel cell concept trucks, including one that can travel up to 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) between hydrogen fill ups, which is equal to the range of a conventional diesel-powered truck.

The 1,000 kilometer range Mercedes Benz GenH2 is being designed for long-haul transport. Customer trials of the GenH2 are set to begin in 2023 in Europe, with series production in the second half of this decade.

Daimler Trucks also revealed a smaller battery-powered truck based off of the eActros called the eActros LongHaul. The eActros electric truck was first revealed in 2018. Since that time, Daimler said that the eActros has been tested extensively by customers in everyday transport operations.

The LongHaul eActros is expected to have a range of about 500 kilometers, exceeding the prototype's approximately 200 kilometers. The truck is projected to be ready for series production in 2024.

Engineers at Daimler Trucks designed the GenH2 fuel cell truck based on the capabilities of the conventional Mercedes-Benz Actros long-haul truck, including optimal power, range, and performance. 

The trucks will first rollout in Europe. However, Daimler said that its pursuing a similar launch schedule for the North American and Japanese markets as it is for Europe. By 2022, the Daimler Trucks portfolio will include a battery-powered truck for customers in Europe, the U.S. and Japan.  

Daimler's ambitious goal is to offer only zero emissions, CO2-neutral trucks in Europe, North America and Japan by 2039.

"We need zero-carbon goods vehicles on our roads. These include hydrogen fuel cell trucks. There is huge potential inherent in hydrogen for the protection of our environment and a strong economy. That is why we have been funding hydrogen as a transport fuel for over ten years – one current example is the concept truck presented today," said Andreas Scheuer, Germany's Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

The new trucks will be built on Dailmer's new ePowertrain "worldwide modular platform architecture" or "eDrive", which is underpin all medium- and heavy-duty CO2-neutral, all-electric series-produced trucks from Daimler Trucks in the future, including its hydrogen fuel cell trucks.

The eDrive is designed as a drive family consisting of different variants, the first of which premiered in the series-produced version of the Mercedes-Benz eActros. Within a modular system, the eDrive can be tailored to suit the market, segment and vehicle type. With the modular ePowertrain, Daimler Trucks plans to achieve synergies and economies of scale for all relevant vehicles and markets, the company said.

The series-production version of the GenH2 Truck will have a gross vehicle weight of 40 tons and a maximum payload of 25 tons. The GenH2 will have special liquid-hydrogen tanks and a powerful fuel-cell system for the highest payload and longest range possible for commercial use.

Daimler is partnering with Volvo on the fuel cell powertrain for the Gen H2. In April this year, Daimler Trucks' entered into a preliminary, non-binding agreement with the Volvo Group to establish a new joint venture for the development, production and commercialization of fuel-cell systems for use in heavy-duty commercial vehicles and other applications.

Joining forces with Volvo will lower development costs for both companies and accelerate time to market of fuel cell systems. To facilitate the joint venture with the Volvo Group, Daimler Truck AG has consolidated its fuel cell development in a newly formed subsidiary "Daimler Truck Fuel Cell GmbH & Co. KG."

The GenH2 Fuel Cell Truck Will Run on Liquid Hydrogen

Daimler Trucks is designing its future fuel cell trucks to run on liquid hydrogen, since the liquid form has higher energy density in relation to volume than gaseous hydrogen, the company said.

As a result, the tanks of a fuel-cell truck using liquid hydrogen can be made much smaller. Due to the lower operating pressure (PSI), the fuel storage tanks are also significantly lighter, since they won't need as much reinforcement.

The smaller hydrogen storage tanks allow for a larger cargo space and higher payload weight. In addition, more liquid hydrogen can be carried, which significantly increases the trucks' range for use in long-haul transport.

The GenH2 will include two stainless steel hydrogen tanks with a storage capacity of 80 kilograms (40 kg each) for covering long distances.

In the series version of the GenH2 Truck, the fuel-cell system will supply 2 x150 kilowatts of power and the battery is to provide an additional 400 kW temporarily. In the pre-series version, the two electric motors are designed for a total of 2 x 230 kW continuous power and 2 x 330 kW maximum power. Torque is rated at 2 x 1163 ft-lb and 2 x 1,527 ft-lb respectively, according to Daimler.

The truck will include a 70 kWh battery pack, which might seem too small for such a large truck. However Daimler said that the battery is not intended to meet energy needs, rather it's mainly switched on to provide additional power for the fuel cell during peak loads, such as when traveling uphill. Additionally, the smaller and lighter battery allows for a higher payload. 

The GenH2 battery can be recharged with regenerative braking energy, as well as excess fuel-cell energy. The fuel cell truck will also get a sophisticated cooling and heating system that keeps all components at the ideal operating temperature for ensuring maximum durability. 

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The battery-powered eActro LongHaul will have a range of around 300 miles. (Photo: Daimler)

The eActros LongHaul

The smaller Mercedes-Benz eActros LongHaul electric truck will be in the same vehicle class as the GenH2 truck. Its features will be largely identical to those of the series-produced GenH2 Truck or a conventional diesel truck. 

The comparatively short range of the fully-electric eActros LongHaul per charge is offset by its high energy efficiency. Daimler says its battery electric drive has the highest efficiency among alternative drive systems. 

According to Daimler, Many of the operations of transport companies do not require a range greater than the approximately 500 kilometers, so the eActros LongHaul will support the needs of most of its logistics customers. 

Daimler cited the EU's legal requirements that regulate a truck driver's time behind the wheel to 4.5 hour before being required to take a 45 minute break as a reason the trucks don't require a range longer than 500 kilometers. During this downtime the truck can be recharged. 

Equipped with the latest EV charging technology, the battery can be charged with the energy needed to continue its routes in under 45 minutes. This makes the eActros LongHaul ideal for transport companies that operate primarily on predictable fixed routes. 

Daimler Trucks anticipates the required charging infrastructure will be in place by the time eActros LongHaul launches in mid-decade. so the battery-powered trucks can be easily charged. The required infrastructure can also be set up at comparatively low cost by the transport companies themselves for charging at their depots.

Depot charging is the most important step for the use of the eActros LongHaul, Daimler said. In the future, public charging at publicly accessible stations along main transport routes as well as a nationwide charging infrastructure will maximize the operating range of battery-electric trucks. 

At the beginning of the year, Daimler Trucks launched a worldwide initiative to establish a charging infrastructure for battery-electric trucks. 

"We are consistently pursuing our vision of CO2-neutral transport with a focus on the genuinely locally CO2-neutral technologies battery power and hydrogen-based fuel cells, which have the potential to succeed in the market in the long term," said Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG and Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG. 

Daimler is also said that newer, more durable batteries will also contribute to the competitiveness of battery-electric trucks in the future, reducing total cost of ownership over a vehicle's lifecycle.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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