Illustration of Volvo truck with hydrogen system

Volvo is already testing fuel cell trucks, where electricity is generated onboard the truck from fuel cells powered by hydrogen. Now the company is also developing trucks where an internal combustion engine can run on green hydrogen.

Photo: Volvo Trucks

Volvo Trucks is developing trucks with internal combustion engines that run on hydrogen and plans a commercial launch toward the end of the decade.

Trucks that run on green hydrogen provide a significant step for Volvo to achieve its net zero goal and support customers in reaching their decarbonization targets, according to the company.

Using Green Hydrogen in Truck Engines

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

On-road tests with trucks using hydrogen in combustion engines will begin in 2026. Testing in labs and in vehicles is ongoing.

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 using HPDI technology. The joint venture is anticipated to become operational in the second quarter of 2024, following formal closing. 

Multiple Paths to Trucking Decarbonization

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, such as biogas and HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil). Or as they are more commonly called in the U.S. renewable natural gas and renewable diesel.

As HDT reported last month, Volvo Trucks’ chief technology officer is convinced that ICE technology will remain an integral propulsion technology for fleets for many decades to come.

Lars Stenqvist, speaking about Volvo’s strategy to develop not only battery-electric and fuel-cell electric vehicles, but also more environmentally friendly ICE-powered trucks, noted that five years down trucking’s road to net zero, Volvo engineers are “less sure and more humble” about the way the technologies they’ve developed will be employed.

“How and where these zero-emission powertrains are used will not be decided by engineers,” he said. “Those issues will be decided by society. And there will be different solutions in different applications and in different countries.”

Hydrogen for Internal Combustion Truck Engines

“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 net zero CO2 emissions well-to-wheel,” said Jan Hjelmgren, head of product management and quality, in a news release.

“They will be a valuable complement to our battery-electric trucks, which have been on the market for several years.”

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

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

Facts About Volvo's ICE Hydrogen Trucks

  • Hydrogen-powered Volvo trucks will have an operational range comparable to many diesel trucks, depending on the type of transport​.
  • 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.

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