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#44. Nicolas Pocard: Fuel Cells Are the Sweet Spot for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

10.31.19 | Podcast | By:

On this episode of the Fueling the Future podcast, I spoke with Nicolas Pocard, Director of Marketing for Ballard Power Systems, about the future of hydrogen. Following is an excerpt from our discussion, which you can download below or listen to in ITunes.

On Why Fuel Cells Are the Sweet Spot for Decarbonizing the Heavy-Duty Fleet:

“If you think about a truck or a bus, a transit bus, they are on the road much more often and for longer period of time and covering longer distances than most passenger cars. These vehicles are heavier so they need more energy to move, they operate long hours covering very long distances, therefore they need a lot of energy. And using hydrogen as a very dense energy source and a fuel cell as a generator of electricity as needed by the vehicle is very beneficial for what we call this group of vehicles like buses and trucks and rail and marine where you need a lot of energy.


That’s really where fuel cell delivers today the best value proposition. And this is driven by the operation requirements of those vehicles. Fuel cells will enable the vehicle to have an extended range, so it can operate, for instance,on one refuel of hydrogen for 350 miles. There is no compromise on payload because hydrogen is very light compared to batteries. If you want to do a battery bus or battery truck, you need to put a lot of batteries, a lot of weight on the vehicle in order to accommodate the operational requirement. But that comes as a compromise with the payload, passengers or goods that you are transporting in a vehicle, so that’s one of the issues on those vehicles.


Secondly, the refueling time is very key. Whenever you have a battery vehicle, especially a large battery vehicle, it takes several hours to recharge this battery, where hydrogen takes only five to ten minutes to refuel. If you think about the asset utilization if you use a bus or a truck, which needs to be on the road as much as possible because you want to do two shifts or three shifts, then hydrogen provides a really big advantage in terms of that utilization and very quick refueling.


And, lastly, it’s all about the scalability. If you look at a very large fleet of vehicles like buses and trucks coming back to a single depot where they need to be refueled within a short amount of time, within a limited space, hydrogen provides that scalability. It’s very compact. You have one refueling infrastructure, like today a petrol station, where a vehicle can come up, refuel in 10 minutes, get parked, the next vehicle comes up, refuels, and then when there is a need for it to be used, maybe in one or two hours later, they can go back on the road and go for 350 miles, 400 miles, without any need of roadside recharging during the duty cycle.


So we really see that as a sweet spot for fuel cells, those type of vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles operating on difficult long-duty cycles. This is where fuel cells will deliver the most value to the customer and to the vehicle operators.”

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