Navistar Collaborates with General Motors Forming Fuel Cell Alliance

Navistar and General Motors collaborated to launch a hydrogen truck ecosystem. Navistar will offer a commercial version of its truck series. 

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Navistar and General Motors collaborated to launch a hydrogen truck ecosystem. Navistar will offer a commercial version of its truck series. 

Navistar is joining and shifting to less carbon-intensive cleaner fuels by tapping General Motors, decades of hydrogen research in a new partnership with the automaker, a trucking company, and a fuel provider to get fuel cell big rigs on U.S. highways in three years.

Test versions will drag goods on routes operated by trucking service J.B. Hunt and be refueled at stations set up by OneH2, a commercial hydrogen fuel provider that currently provides the zero-emission fuel for factory and warehouse forklifts. GM will supply Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell “power cubes” to Navistar that the Lisle, Illinois-based Company will install and test in a fleet of International RH Series semis, with a plan to get hydrogen trucks into commercial production by 2024.

The aim is that the Navistar trucks will have over 500 miles of range per fueling and be able to be refilled with hydrogen in 15 minutes, Persio Lisboa, “We are mindful that the next generation of trucks will be an important piece of an ecosystem solution and zero-emission vehicles do not take a one size fits all approach,” he said in a conference call. “To accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies Navistar believes in collaboration without boundaries. GM is a trusted partner on the industrial side. And after extensive research, Navistar selected GM to collaborate on fuel cell technology due to the company’s global leadership in the space.”, Navistar’s president and CEO, told reporters, without providing details on potential pricing or sales targets.

GM will supply Navistar with “power cubes” made of its Hydrotec fuel cells. While battery power is an eye-catching substitute to gasoline for passenger cars and light and medium-duty trucks, semis weighing 80,000 pounds when shipping loaded trailers are a tougher challenge, particularly for long-haul trucks, owing to the multiton weight of batteries powerful enough to boost them hundreds of miles. The announcement comes as the Biden Administration prioritizes reducing U.S. emissions of climate-warming gases and plans to incentive production of electric vehicles.

Moreover, the global partnerships are founding to commercialize hydrogen in the heavy-duty vehicle space. Startup Nikola, which is working with Bosch, plans to start building its hydrogen semis in 2023, while partnerships are also taking shape between Toyota and Kenworth, Hyundai Motor and Cummins and Daimler, and Volvo Trucks. For shippers and drivers, the ability to refuel a hydrogen truck in about the same time it takes to load up with diesel is also attractive, versus the recharge time needed for heavy-duty batteries.

Gary Horvat, Navistar’s vice president for eMobility and a former GM engineer said “We think both battery-electric and fuel cell technology are important solutions in this marketplace,” he adds that “Typically, lower mileage, 250 to 300 miles or less would be more battery-electric. As we go farther, from 300 miles to 500, even more miles than that, the fuel cell has an advantage.”

Executive director of GM’s global fuel cell business, reduce to discuss that relationship during the Navistar call. Along with Navistar, GM may also supply fuel cells to Nikola through Charlie Freese.

Moreover, like the vehicles sold by Tesla battery-powered vehicles store electricity to power wheels while those with fuel cells make electricity for propulsion on-demand in a process combining hydrogen and oxygen. Neither has exhaust emissions aside from byproduct water vapor produced fuel cells.

Hydrogen technology has enhanced vividly over the past 20 years, in terms of cost drop, performance in hot and cold weather, and durability. However, fuel cell cars such as Toyota’s Mirai have failed to rack up sizeable consumer sales in the U.S. owing to a lack of hydrogen stations, which exist in California in the U.S. That’s why Nikola and now Navistar intend to set up stations to service hydrogen trucks running on dedicated routes.

Hunt COO Nick Hobbs said that “Trucking Company J.B. Hunt has over 521 shipping locations and “all kinds of flexibility” in terms of where the initial test routes will be established, he adds “It could be anywhere. It’s not prescribed on where it’s going to go. We have a lot of flexibility as we roll this out.”