Autocar Industries purchases FC systems from GM
General Motors has announced that its Hydrotec fuel cells are to be used for Autocar Industries’ commercial vehicles, including concrete mixers, roll-off and dump trucks, refuse collection vehicles and terminal tractors. The first of these vehicles is scheduled to go into production at the Autocar plant in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2026.
“EV propulsion systems like GM’s Ultium Platform are great solutions for electrifying passenger vehicles, but larger vehicles like Autocar’s class 8 trucks, refuse trucks, and terminal tractors require robust solutions that enable significant energy carrying capacity and fast refuelling 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.”
Autocar Industries specialises in exactly these kinds of work vehicles. The vehicle manufacturer will use the fuel cell systems to offer its customers “robust solutions without exhaust emissions”.
Called Hydrotec Power Cubes, the Hydrotech fuel cell systems from General Motors were developed specifically for commercial vehicle applications. These hydrogen fuel cell systems are characterized by compact design, scalable platform and easy installation. Each unit has an output of 77 kW, although several Power Cubes can be installed in a vehicle if the power requirement is higher. Each cube contains 300 fuel cells and a thermal and energy management system.
When Autocar installs the fuel cell systems in its vehicles, the company will receive support from Triz Engineering – a commercial vehicle engineering company owned by GVW Group, which also owns Autocar. Triz Engineering will support power distribution between the fuel cell system and the small batteries that store electricity captured from regenerative braking or created by the fuel cell system.
“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.”
Autocar will build working vehicles using Hydrotech technology to order and sell these directly to customers. Vehicles sharing a common architecture, such as cement mixers, roll-off and dump trucks, will be built first, followed by refuse trucks and terminal tractors.
In 2021, Autocar ordered purely electric drive systems from Meritor. Judging from Autocar Trucks’ website, the motors have already been installed in purely electric terminal vehicles and refuse vehicles, which were made available last year.