Mercedes-Benz announces fuel-cell concept trucks as part of comprehensive move away from diesel17 September 2020

GenH2 Truck

The GenH2 Truck, a fuel-cell truck with a range of up to 1,000km and more for flexible and demanding long-haul transport begins customer trials in 2023, start of series production in second half of the 2020s.

Thanks to the use of liquid instead of gaseous hydrogen with its higher energy density, the vehicle’s performance is planned to equal that of a comparable conventional diesel truck, according to the OEM.

Meanwhile, the new eActros LongHaul, a battery-electric truck with a range of about 500km for energy-efficient transport on plannable long-haul routes, is projected to be ready for series production in 2024.

Finally, Mercedes-Benz eActros, a battery-electric truck with a range of well over 200km for heavy urban distribution, is to go into series production in 2021.

As a new worldwide modular platform architecture, the so-called ePowertrain will be the technological basis of all medium- and heavy-duty CO2-neutral, all-electric series-produced trucks from Daimler Trucks – whether powered purely by batteries or by hydrogen-based fuel cells.

Martin Daum, chairman of the board of management of Daimler Truck AG said that the company has two approaches: battery power and hydrogen-based fuel cells. “This combination enables us to offer our customers the best vehicle options, depending on the application. Battery power will be rather used for lower cargo weights and for shorter distances. Fuel-cell power will tend to be the preferred option for heavier loads and longer distances.”

The development engineers at Daimler Trucks have based the GenH2 Truck on the capabilities of the conventional Mercedes-Benz Actros long-haul truck with regard to tractive power, range, and performance. For example, the series-production version of the GenH2 Truck is to have a gross vehicle weight of 40 tons and a payload of 25 tons. Two liquid hydrogen tanks and a fuel cell system will make this high payload and long range possible, and therefore form the core of the GenH2 Truck concept.

Daimler draws on its internal development company for fuel cells. In April this year, Daimler Truck AG concluded a preliminary agreement with the Volvo Group to establish a new joint venture for the development to series maturity, production and commercialization of fuel-cell systems for use in heavy-duty commercial vehicles and other applications

Daimler Trucks is currently pressing ahead with the development of the necessary tank-system technologies to make liquid hydrogen usable also in mobile applications as an energy source for series-produced fuel-cell trucks. The storage of cryogenic liquid hydrogen at -253 degrees Celsius is already common practice in stationary applications, for example in industry or at hydrogen filling stations. This also applies to the transport of liquid hydrogen as cargo.

The two stainless-steel liquid-hydrogen tanks intended for the series version of the GenH2 Truck will have a storage capacity of 40 kg each for covering long distances. The stainless-steel tank system consists of two tubes, one within the other, that are connected to each other and vacuum-insulated. In the series version of the GenH2 Truck, the fuel-cell system is to supply 2 x150 kilowatts and the battery is to provide an additional 400 kW temporarily. At 70 kWh, the storage capacity of the battery is relatively low, as it is not intended to meet energy needs, but mainly to be switched on to provide situational power support for the fuel cell, for example during peak loads while accelerating or while driving uphill fully loaded. At the same time, the relatively light battery allows a higher payload. It is to be recharged in series-production vehicles with braking energy and excess fuel-cell energy. A core element of the sophisticated operating strategy of the fuel-cell and battery system is a cooling and heating system that keeps all components at the ideal operating temperature, thus ensuring maximum durability. In a 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 2 x 1577 Nm and 2 x 2071 Nm respectively.

The Mercedes-Benz eActros LongHaul battery-powered long-haul 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 eActros LongHaul on one battery charge is offset by its high energy efficiency, as battery electric drive has the highest efficiency among alternative drive systems.

In the EU, for example, truck drivers have to take a break of at least 45 minutes at the latest after 4.5 hours of driving. During this time, thanks to the latest charging technology, the battery can be charged with a large proportion of the energy needed for the ongoing journey. The eActros LongHaul will therefore be the right choice for transport companies for regular use on plannable routes and with the appropriate distances and charging possibilities.

With its market launch in the middle of the decade, the eActros LongHaul will be available some time before the GenH2 Truck. The required infrastructure can also be set up sooner – and at comparatively low cost – by the transport companies themselves for charging at their depots. This so-called depot charging is the most important step for the use of the eActros LongHaul, and means that the first areas of application can already be covered. Another key component is opportunity charging for range extension, for example, while unloading or loading when the electric truck is anyway stationary. In the future, public charging at publicly accessible stations along main transport routes will also become increasingly important – a nationwide [Germany] charging infrastructure will maximise the operating range of battery-electric trucks. New, more durable batteries will also contribute to the competitiveness of battery-electric trucks, reducing total cost of ownership over a vehicle’s lifecycle.

The first practical operation of the Mercedes-Benz eEconic low-floor truck, which is based on the eActros and was announced by Daimler Trucks this year, is planned for 2021 and series production is scheduled to start in 2022. The eEconic will mainly be used as a waste-collection vehicle in urban waste-management applications. According to the OEM, this is a very good choice for battery-powered trucks due to the comparatively short and firmly planned routes of up to about 100km and a very high proportion of stop-and-go operation.

A small series of more than 170 FUSO eCanter light-duty trucks are in use in with numerous customers in Japan, the United States and Europe; the first of them were handed over to customers already in 2017. The eCanter offers a range of 100 km.

At Daimler Buses, the Mercedes-Benz eCitaro has been in series production since the fall of 2018. It will be followed in 2022 by the version with fuel cells as a range extender.

Daimler Trucks is also using a globally uniform basic architecture for all-electric trucks: the ePowertrain. The technological heart of the ePowertrain is, as a first step, the integrated electric drive, the so-called eDrive. This is used in the form of an e-carrier concept, that is, an e-axle with one or two integrated e-motors including transmission. The eDrive is an in-house development by Daimler experts and is said to offer numerous advantages over concepts with one central motor. For example, the more compact design allows a larger space to install a larger battery with a higher capacity, which has a positive effect on range. The high battery capacity also ensures high power transmission to the e-axle, thus allowing continuous power delivery. The recuperation potential also increases due to the combination of a large battery with very powerful e-motors. The first eDrive will have its premiere in the series-produced version of the Mercedes-Benz eActros.

William Dalrymple

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