A new cooperation between two US companies wants to offer Class 6 (up to 12.5 tons) trucks powered by fuel cells. New York-based fuel cell specialist Plug Power and Colorado-based e-drive developer Lightning Systems have now joined forces.
The fuel cell trucks are to be used primarily in delivery logistics between warehouses and distribution centers – i.e. not in delivery, the often quoted “last mile”, but in the logistics jargon of the “middle mile”. According to the two companies, fuel cells will enable vehicles in commercial fleets to achieve “high capacity utilization, long range, fast refueling and maximum utilization of the load volume and payload”.
The vehicles are converted GM 6500XD. The “ProGen” fuel cells manufactured by Plug Power have an output of 90 kW and are expected to provide “industry-leading power density” thanks to the proprietary metal plate stack technology. The powertrain will also use batteries from cooperation partner Lightning. Lightning Systems has been offering electrical retrofits for Class 6 trucks since 2018, but with batteries.
Ex works, the hydrogen storage unit can store up to 20 kilograms of the volatile gas, which for “typical route profiles” should correspond to a range of 200 miles (around 320 kilometers). A 40-kilogram storage tank for 400 miles is also offered as an option.
“This partnership allows us to meet our customers’ needs at every stage of their journey from fuel cell-powered forklifts on the warehouse floor to last-mile delivery and now middle-mile delivery between distribution centers as well,” says Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power. Tim Reeser, CEO of Lightning Systems, described the H2 truck as a “natural next product” in the announcement, saying Lightning’s powertrains are designed to support both battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicle configurations.
The vehicles are to be produced at Plug Power’s headquarters in Latham, New York State, and will be available in the third quarter of 2020. The companies will not quote prices in their respective announcements.
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