Home FleetWatch 2024 Volvo Trucks to launch hydrogen-powered combustion engine before 2030

Volvo Trucks to launch hydrogen-powered combustion engine before 2030

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Firing on all cylinders: Volvo’s prototype hydrogen-powered combustion engine truck.
Firing on all cylinders: Volvo’s prototype hydrogen-powered combustion engine truck.

Truck OEMs around the world have for many years been under increasingly stringent legislative pressure to produce engines that significantly limit carbon emissions to help mitigate the effects of climate change. With battery-electric trucks currently entering the road freight industry, Volvo Trucks is developing a ‘green’ hydrogen-powered combustion engine ideal for long-haul applications and due for launch before 2030.

According to Jan Hjelmgren, head of product management and quality, Volvo Trucks: “Trucks that run on green hydrogen provide a significant step to Volvo achieving its net zero goal and supporting customers to reach their decarbonisation targets. On-road tests with trucks using hydrogen in combustion engines will begin in 2026, and the global commercial launch is planned towards the end of this decade.”

Trucks that run on green hydrogen instead of fossil fuels provide one way to decarbonise transport, says Hjelmgren. “Hydrogen trucks will be especially suitable over longer distances and in regions where there is limited charging infrastructure, or time for, recharging of batteries.” 

The hydrogen-powered combustion engine trucks will complement Volvo’s offering of other alternatives, such as battery-electric trucks, fuel cell electric trucks and trucks that run on renewable fuels, like biogas and HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil).

“Trucks where the traditional internal combustion engine remains but runs on hydrogen will have the same performance and reliability as our diesel trucks, but with the added benefit of potentially low CO2 emissions wheel-to-wheel. They will be a valuable complement to our battery electric trucks, which have been on the market for several years,” adds Hjelmgren.

Volvo trucks with combustion engines powered by green hydrogen have the potential to deliver net zero CO2 when using renewable HVO as ignition fuel and are categorised as “Zero Emission Vehicles” (ZEV) under the agreed new EU CO2 emission standards. 

“It’s clear that several kinds of technology are needed to decarbonise heavy transport. As a global truck manufacturer, we need to support our customers by offering a variety of decarbonisation solutions, and customers can choose their alternative based on transport assignment, available infrastructure and green energy prices,” says Hjelmgren. 

Hydrogen-powered Volvo trucks will offer a number of benefits including an operational range comparable to many diesel trucks, depending on the type of transport​, explains Hjelmgren. “Due to the low CO2 emissions from hydrogen combustion, these trucks are categorized  as ‘Zero Emission Vehicles’ under the agreed new EU CO2 emission standards. Hydrogen combustion engines will also emit very small amounts of nitrogen oxides and particles. Hydrogen can also be used to power fuel cell electric trucks, where electricity is produced on board the truck. Fuel cell electric trucks do not emit any tailpipe emissions, only water vapor.”

Injecting new life into internal combustion truck engines

Volvo trucks with hydrogen-powered combustion engines will feature High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI), a technology where a small amount of ignition fuel is injected with high pressure to enable compression ignition before hydrogen is added. The advantages of this technology include higher energy efficiency with lower fuel consumption, and increased engine power. 

Volvo Group has signed an agreement with Westport Fuel Systems to establish a joint venture utilising HPDI technology. The joint venture is anticipated to become operational in the second quarter of 2024, following formal closing.

According to Eric Parry, senior manager of Sustainable Solutions at Volvo Trucks South Africa, a number of green hydrogen projects in various stages of maturity are currently underway in South Africa, including the ‘Hydrogen Valley’ feasibility study conducted by the DSI with partner companies, as well as the ‘Boegoebaai Hydrogen Cluster’ in the Northwest Province. 

Volvo Trucks believes that there is no single solution that can solve climate change and that it is projects like these, says Parry, that will enable the introduction and testing of hydrogen-fuelled commercial vehicles in South Africa.

“Local interest in sustainable transport solutions continues to grow and the first movers in South Africa are companies that value their environmental impact and already have programs to reduce emissions,” Parry concludes.

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