MAN to build 200 hydrogen trucks — to prove that hydrogen doesn’t work?

Entertainment

Europe’s second-largest commercial truck maker is going to build 200 hydrogen-powered semi trucks, but remains skeptical about the viability of hydrogen as a transport fuel.

It’s a strange announcement, as far as these things go. MAN even went so far as to reiterate its commitment to battery-electric vehicles for “most” applications, strange for an announcement about a hydrogen-fueled product that the company plans to try and actually sell to a select number of customers who carry extra-heavy loads like timber or parts for offshore wind turbines. Other hydrogen strangeness includes claims that “it will still be a few years before the technology is truly market-ready and competitive.”

Those claims don’t come from MAN Truck’s notoriously hydrogen-skeptical CEO, Alexander Vlaskamp, who told reporters that it was, “impossible for hydrogen to effectively compete with battery electric trucks,” back in January. “Today you cannot buy hydrogen for less than 13 or 14 euros … and it is not green. And when we have green hydrogen it will be needed for the heavy industry of steel, cement, or plastic.”

So — if all that’s true, why is MAN continuing to invest in hydrogen-powered vehicle programs?
Only to test our hypothesis,” said Vlaskamp (emphasis mine). “We may use hydrogen for transportation in 2035, but only if there is enough green hydrogen at the right price and the necessary infrastructure is in place.”

MAN CEO expresses doubts about H

MAN CEO, Alexander Vlaskamp; via Expansión.
MAN CEO, Alexander Vlaskamp; via Expansión.

And, as noted above, Vlaskamp isn’t alone. MAN’s board member for research and development, Frederik Zohm, said that the company is the one saying hydrogen still has years to go. “(MAN) continues to research fuel cell technology based on battery electrics,” he said, in a statement quoted by Hydrogen Insight, before another board member added that, “we (MAN) expect that, in the future, we will be able to best serve the vast majority of our customers’ transport applications with battery-electric trucks.”

As far as the hydrogen trucks themselves go, the H2 combustion engine appears to have taken center stage in MAN’s hydrogen product road map, with the company’s previously stated plans to put its FCEV semi into limited production in 2025 seemingly pushed back to make way for this run.

Dubbed the MAN gTGX, the trucks are fitted with a 56 kg tank that it says can be filled with hydrogen compressed at 700 bar in 15 minutes. And, with tailpipe emissions coming in at less than 1kg of CO2 per km, the truck will be categorized as a “zero-emissions vehicle” under the EU’s road transport regulations.

MAN says its H2 combustion engine will deliver a massive 1800+ lb-ft. of torque (2500 Nm), enough to haul more 220,000 lbs. (100 tonnes) of payload.

Electrek’s Take

This whole thing is strange, right? Imagine RAM trucks announcing a new diesel pickup and including quotes from several executives about the technology being a step or two behind the electric trucks from Ford and Tesla. It would be bizarre.

That said, the message here seems to be that, if Europe wants to keep spending money on hydrogen trucks, MAN will be happy to take it. That’s what I’m getting, anyway — what about you guys? Scroll on down to the comments and let us know.

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