One year ago, major commercial vehicles manufacturers (and industry rivals), Volvo Group and Daimler Truck AG, announced that they will team up to work on sustainable forms of transportation. A year on, the two industry leaders have officially outlined their pioneering roadmap for the new fuel cell joint venture named “cellcentric“. To form cellcentric, Volvo Group acquired 50% of the partnership interests in the existing Daimler Truck Fuel Cell GmbH & Co. KG for approximately EUR 0.6 billion on a cash and debt-free basis.
cellcentric is part of an industry-first commitment to accelerate the use of hydrogen-based fuel cells for long-haul trucks and more. Its objective is to build one of Europe’s largest planned series production of fuel cell systems and become a leading global manufacturer of fuel cell systems. This facility is expected to commence operations in 2025. The goal is to meet the European Green Deal target of implementing a sustainable transportation system for a carbon-neutral Europe by 2050.
cellcentric will develop, produce and commercialise fuel cell systems for long-haul trucking and other applications. This joint venture can draw on decades of expertise and development work from both Daimler Truck AG and Volvo Group. Large scale use of hydrogen-based fuel cells however, will require coherent policies. As such, the two cellcentric shareholders are calling for a harmonised policy framework within the European Union (EU) to support this technology and help accelerate the commercial rollout of hydrogen-based fuel-cell usage.
As CO2-neutral trucks are currently significantly more expensive than conventional vehicles, a definitive policy framework is necessary to ensure demand and affordability. According to Daimler Truck AG and Volvo Group, this should include incentives for CO2-neutral technologies and a taxation system based on carbon and energy content. Further, an emissions trading system could be an additional option.
According to Daimler Truck AG and Volvo Group, purely battery-electric and hydrogen-based fuel cell trucks will complement each other depending on the individual customer use case. Battery power will be the preferred application for lower cargo weights and for shorter distances, while fuel cell power will be the preferred option for heavier loads and longer distances.
Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG and Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, said: “Hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric trucks will be key for enabling CO2-neutral transportation in the future. In combination with pure battery-electric drives, it enables us to offer our customers the best genuinely locally CO2-neutral vehicle options, depending on the application. Battery-electric trucks alone will not make this possible. Together with our partner Volvo Group, we are therefore fully committed to our fuel-cell joint venture cellcentric and we are both pushing forward the development of the technology as well as the series production preparations. Regarding the necessary hydrogen infrastructure, it is clear that green hydrogen is the only sensible way forward in the long term.”
Meanwhile, Martin Lundstedt, CEO of Volvo Group, said: “Our united ambition is to meet the targets in the Paris agreement of becoming CO2-neutral by 2050 at the latest. We are convinced that hydrogen fuel-cell technology plays an essential role in helping us reach that milestone. But we know there is so much more to achieve than just the electrification of machines and vehicles. There needs to be greater cooperation between public and private stakeholders to develop the necessary technology and infrastructure, which is why we are calling for united action from policymakers and governments around the world in helping us make hydrogen fuel-cell technology a success. Partnerships like cellcentric are vital to our commitment to decarbonizing road transport.”
Thus, the major truck manufacturers in Europe, also backed by Volvo Group and Daimler Truck AG, are calling for the setup of around 300 high-performance hydrogen refuelling stations suitable for heavy-duty vehicles in Europe by 2025, and around 1,000 hydrogen refuelling stations no later than 2030. This joint initiative of using hydrogen as a carrier of green electricity to power electric trucks in long-haul operations is therefore a crucial part of decarbonizing road transport.
Currently, cellcentric is conceptualizing plans for its large-scale series production. It is expecting to release more details and a decision on the location some time in 2022. As a significant step towards series production, preparations for pre-series production are taking place at a new site in Esslingen, near Stuttgart, Germany. Concurrently, cellcentric is scaling up on-going prototype output. Daimler Truck AG’s and Volvo Group’s goal is to start with customer tests of fuel-cell trucks in about three years and be in series production of fuel-cell trucks during the second half of this decade. All vehicle-related activities are carried out independently from each other, as both companies remain competitors in all vehicle and product ranges, and particularly in fuel-cell integration solutions for all products.
There are over 300 highly specialised experts who currently work for cellcentric in inter-disciplinary teams at locations in Nabern, Stuttgart (Germany) and Burnaby (Canada). Around 700 individual patents have been issued so far, underlining the leading role played by the company when it comes to technological development.