Cummins showed a concept Class 8 day cab at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show featuring a hybrid fuel cell-battery electric drivetrain. - Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Cummins showed a concept Class 8 day cab at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show featuring a hybrid fuel cell-battery electric drivetrain.

Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Add Cummins to the growing list of top-tier OEMs aggressively ramping up their hydrogen fuel cell research and development efforts.

Citing its legacy as a “power company,” Thad Ewald, vice president, corporate strategy and head of the company’s Electrified Power business unit, said that the company’s founder was passionate about using whatever technology was at hand to efficiently power commercial vehicles. A century ago, diesel engines were the emerging technology showing the most promise to move freight. And today, Ewald noted, battery electric trucks and hydrogen fuel cells are shaping up to be trucking’s power choices in the future.

To drive that point home, a concept Class 8 truck with hybrid Cummins fuel cell and battery electric power was on prominent display in Atlanta at the Cummins booth on the North American Commercial Vehicle show floor. Ewald pointed to the new vehicle as proof positive that Cummins’ new strategy to provide fleet customers with a broad portfolio of power options, from diesel and natural gas, hybrids, to battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell solutions is already bearing fruit.

“Developing this cutting-edge hydrogen fuel cell truck as a technology demonstrator is an important step in gaining valuable insights that are critical to continue developing the right solutions for the market and preparing for the next 100 years,” Ewald told journalists at a press briefing on Oct. 29.

“In the long run, the customers we serve will likely need more than one type of power, depending on their specific markets, applications and use cases," he said. "We are uniquely positioned to help our customers select the right solution for their needs. Our deep technological expertise and global service and support network means we are able to help them transition from one technology to another at the time that’s best for their business.”

Ewald said the zero-emissions concept truck – a Class 8 day cab tractor with 6x4 drive axles-- shows promise for a variety of vocational applications, including regional haul, port drayage and terminal container handling as well as beverage, grocery and other urban delivery fleet operations.

Designed and built by Cummins engineers in Columbus, Indiana, the concept tractor features a new, proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell that converts hydrogen into electricity, which is then used to power electric drive motors to move the vehicle.

The display truck features a 90 kW fuel cell. But the fuel cell system is scalable to meet both shorter and longer range fleet requirements, and can be spec’d with several other versions ranging from 30 kW up to 180 kW in addition to a 100 kWh lithium-ion battery capacity.

These combined propulsion systems give the concept truck a range of 150 to 250 miles before its hydrogen supply has to be replenished. But, Ewald noted, the truck’s range can be extended by adding additional hydrogen tanks, increasing tank storage pressure, or by adding additional fuel cells.

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