Honda expands its risky hydrogen investment with new fuel cell-powered semi truck

Honda continues to place bets on hydrogen with the debut of a new Class 8 truck powered by the most abundant element in the universe. The concept vehicle joins the automaker’s hydrogen fuel cell SUV revealed earlier this year. And it comes at a time of skyrocketing fuel prices and a shaky outlook for hydrogen in the transportation space.

The truck runs on three of Honda’s new fuel cell systems, which are now in production at the company’s Fuel Cell System Manufacturing joint venture with General Motors in Brownstown, Michigan. Honda is positioning the fuel cell system, which has double the durability but two-thirds the costs of previous generations, as central to its hydrogen business strategy that was developed alongside GM over the last decade.

The truck runs on three of Honda’s new fuel cell systems

Hydrogen fuel cells use compressed hydrogen as their fuel, releasing water vapor as its only emission. A number of automakers have recently seized on the technology for its advantages in the development of heavy-duty vehicles and mobile power generators — and as a way to further transition away from polluting gas-powered vehicles and meet their own climate goals.

Hydrogen’s energy content by volume is low, which makes storing hydrogen a challenge because it requires high pressures, low temperatures, or chemical processes to be stored compactly. Overcoming this challenge is important for light-duty vehicles because they often have limited sizes and weight capacities for fuel storage.

But hydrogen is also an extremely risky investment, thanks to high prices and a weak refueling infrastructure. There are only a handful of hydrogen vehicles available for sale, with most of the market focused on California thanks to the state’s modest investment in fuel stations. But even that is looking pretty grim, with Shell announcing earlier this year that it was closing all seven of its hydrogen fueling stations in California.

According to the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership, a paltry 223 new hydrogen fuel cell cars were sold in the US in the first quarter of 2024 — a 70 percent drop from the same period a year ago.

Still, Honda remains bullish on hydrogen, especially with regard to commercial vehicles. And it has a ready partner in GM, which is also working on a number of applications for its fuel cell technology.


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