General Motors and Autocar are teaming up to create a range of zero-tailpipe-emissions vocational vehicles powered by GM’s Hydrotec power cubes.
Autocar, which already makes battery-electric terminal tractors, said in a statement that this initiative is an important expansion in offering zero-emissions solutions. Fuel-cell technology offers an additional energy propulsion option to support Autocar vocational customers’ move toward EPA requirements, the company added.
Hydrogen-Fueled Electric Power
Hydrogen fuel cells are a key component of GM’s electrification strategy extending beyond battery-powered passenger vehicles. Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity through an electrochemical reaction. The fuel cell enables the conversion of energy stored in hydrogen into electricity to power a vehicle.
Each power cube contains more than 300 hydrogen fuel cells, along with thermal and power management systems and proprietary controls to maximize fuel cell and battery life and performance while optimizing cold start capability. The Hydrotec power cube provides 77 kilowatts of power and is much quieter than a conventional diesel propulsion system. Multiple power cubes can be arrayed in a vehicle for even higher power ratings.
Since fuel cells are lightweight and enable large payloads, long range, quiet operation and rapid refueling, they can meet the needs of heavy-duty applications where battery-electric technology is not a good option.
“EV propulsion systems like GM’s Ultium Platform are great solutions for electrifying passenger vehicles, but larger vehicles such as Autocar’s Class 8 trucks, refuse trucks and terminal tractors require robust solutions that enable significant energy carrying capacity and fast refueling times,” said Charlie Freese, GM executive director, Global Hydrotec.
“We want to enable zero-tailpipe-emissions solutions for the largest, highest-energy consuming vehicles, and fuel cells are ideal for the most energy-intensive applications.”
These jointly developed trucks will be powered by GM’s Hydrotec power cubes. The company said these power cubes are compact, easy to package, scalable, and can electrify vehicles and applications across a variety of industries, from trucking, aerospace and locomotives to power generation.
Built to Order by Autocar
The first of these vehicles is expected to go into production in 2026 at the Autocar Truck Plant in Birmingham, Alabama. Vehicles with Hydrotec technology will be built to order by Autocar and will be sold directly to customers. Cement mixers, roll-off and dump trucks, which all share a common architecture, will be built first, followed by refuse trucks and terminal tractors.
“Autocar provides customized vocational trucking solutions, and as regulations change, we see Hydrotec fuel cells as an additional avenue for our customers to meet their EPA requirements with zero-tailpipe-emissions vehicles,” said Eric Schwartz, president, Autocar, in a statement.
Triz Engineering will provide integration support for power distribution between the fuel cell and batteries, which store electricity that is captured from regenerative braking or is created by the Hydrotec power cubes. Triz Engineering is a commercial vehicle engineering company owned by GVW Group, which also owns Autocar.
“We have carefully studied existing severe-duty vocational trucks to understand their specific demands and requirements,” said Johann Vorster, president of Triz Engineering. “With GM and Autocar, we have built a fuel cell application that is unique within vocational vehicles — giving severe-duty trucking more options to be truly rugged and capable of achieving zero tailpipe emissions.”