Hydrogen-powered heavy lorries were once seen as the future of emissions-free road transport but they could soon be relegated to niche markets in Europe, overtaken by electric trucks.
On the outskirts of Trondheim in western Norway, food wholesaler Asko has since 2020 been testing four hydrogen fuel cell trucks supplied by Swedish truckmaker Scania.
The experience has been mixed so far.
Integration problems, defective parts and a forced stoppage after the explosion of a charging station near Oslo have meant the vehicles have been available for use only 30 to 40 percent of the time.
“They’re not on the road as much as we would have liked. That’s the least we can say,” admits Asko project head Roger Saether.
“But we’re convinced that it will all work out in the end.”
When they’re running, the trucks, which have a range of up to 500 kilometres (310 miles), supply supermarkets spread across a vast region.
For closer deliveries, the group uses battery-run vehicles, which today have a shorter range.
That distribution of roles — hydrogen lorries for heavy loads over long distances, electric ones for lighter loads on short distances — has long been accepted as standard among industry experts due to the advantages and disadvantages of each technology.
But things are changing.
“Now what we’re seeing is that contrary to a few years ago, electric trucks and buses are actually playing an increasingly big role and we also see a very important role for them to play in the decarbonisation (process),” said Fedor Unterlohner, freight manager at NGO Transport and Environment.
– Electric Avenue –
Heavy duty vehicles account for six percent of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Brussels has called for the industry to reduce its emissions by 45 percent compared to 2019 levels by 2030, and by 90 percent by 2040.
According to a study conducted last year by German authorities, truckmakers expect 63 percent of new lorries sold in Europe in 2030 to be “zero emission” vehicles.
Electric trucks are expected to make up the lion’s share, with 85 percent.
That’s because previous concerns about electric trucks have been eliminated as, unlike hydrogen, the technology for electric trucks has benefitted from advances made in the electric car industry.
Most heavy trucks in Europe drive fewer than 800 kilometres a day, a distance that could soon be within reach of electric batteries — especially given drivers’ strictly regulated breaks, during which they can recharge their vehicles.
Payload limited by the batteries’ weight?
The amount of energy batteries can store continues to improve, to the point where the weight difference compared to a diesel truck is expected to become insignificant.
So-called megawatt charging stations are currently being developed and should soon be able to provide 10 times more power than the fastest charging stations currently available.
– Economies of scale –
When it comes to cost — a crucial factor, given the narrow margins in the transport sector — electric trucks hold the advantage.
Purchase prices benefit from economies of scale generated by the rapid development of electric car batteries.
Operating costs are also modest, with e-trucks requiring little maintenance and electricity normally much less expensive than green hydrogen.
However, in some cases hydrogen lorries could be the wiser choice.
“For example, if you are driving with two drivers in Europe — which allows drivers to skip regulated breaks.
“Or when you are in very peripheral regions. Or on islands where you don’t have any connection to the grid,” said Unterlohner.
“Or if you’re transporting an 80-tonne wind turbine through Germany, where you have to block the roads in the night and you have to work all night. Then it may make sense,” he said.
But even Scania, which has supplied the four hydrogen trucks to Asko, has chosen to focus on electric heavy trucks “due to their cost advantage in total operation economy and fuel efficiency”.
“For some geographies and operations … we see that the hydrogen-fuelled vehicles might be a viable technology,” Scania senior official Peter Forsberg said.
“Therefore we have initiated some activities in order to learn how the hydrogen eco system might play out.”
UAE sought to use COP28 to advance oil deals: report
The United Arab Emirates planned to exploit meetings with foreign governments arranged due to its COP28 hosting role to strike fossil fuel deals, according to leaked documents obtained by the BBC.
The leaked briefing notes, obtained by journalists at the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) working alongside the British broadcaster, were prepared by the UAE’s COP28 team for summit president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber ahead of meetings with foreign governments between July and October this year.
Leaked “talking points” prepared for a meeting with China said that ADNOC, the UAE’s state oil company, was “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG (liquefied natural gas) opportunities” in Mozambique, Canada and Australia.
Briefing notes prepared for meetings with Colombia, Germany and Egypt suggested that ADNOC “stands ready” to support each country develop fossil fuel projects.
The documents showed the UAE prepared talking points for meetings with 20 countries, including the United States, UK and Germany, on commercial opportunities for state renewable energy company Masdar.
COP28 president Al Jaber is also CEO of ADNOC and Masdar.
A COP28 spokesperson told AFP that the documents cited by the BBC “are inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings. It is extremely disappointing to see the BBC use unverified documents in their reporting.”
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body responsible for the COP28 summit, which starts on Thursday, told the BBC that the “cardinal principle” for hosts was “the obligation of impartiality”.
Climate campaigners have raised concerns about the influence of fossil fuel interests at the talks in Dubai, noting Jaber’s role as head of an oil company.
In an interview with AFP on Saturday, Jaber defended the large presence of heavy emitting industries including the oil and gas sector.
“Everyone needs to be part of this process and everyone needs to be held responsible and everyone needs to be held accountable,” he said.
COP28, which will be held until December 12, is due to be attended by 167 world leaders, including King Charles III and Pope Francis.
Alberta proposes more open definition of software engineer in new bill
Tech companies and the APEGA feud as the Alberta government prioritizes tech growth
Software engineers build technical programs — but not unless they’re regulated and certified. At least, that has been the stance of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA).
Tech companies in Alberta like Neo Financial and Helcim recently petitioned to Premier Danielle Smith for a more open interpretation of the job title “software engineer,” as they were faced with lawsuits over job ad verbiage from the APEGA.
It seems the government listened.
Fast forward to November 2023? The Government of Alberta has proposed changes to legislation, specifically the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act, to open up the legal definition of software engineer, as many tech companies use the title without actually seeking a professional engineer’s professional designation or certification.
The proposed changes fall under the new Bill 7, which has generated approval from the tech industry:
“This is an important development for the innovation sector in the province and will give companies and their employees the freedom to use titles that have long been universally accepted in the tech industry.”
- Sam Pillar, Chief Executive, Jobber
However, the APEGA sees the initiative as a threat to public safety:
“Title protection is vital to preserving public safety and maintaining high standards of practice and ethics.”
- Jay Nagendran, Registrar, APEGA
Sure, tech companies could retitle job descriptions to “software developer” instead; however, studies show that these job ads receive significantly less applicants and interest than those titled with “software engineer.” The main goal? Supporting the tech industry in attracting and retaining top talent.
Experts predict similar issues will arise in the ever-evolving tech industry. For example, growing popularity of generative AI like Chat-GPT will create a demand for “prompt engineers” — see the dilemma? The legislative changes (if passed) are thought to foster tech company growth, improve the economy, and reduce red tape.
Learn more about the proposed bill here.
Veronica Ott is a freelance writer and digital marketer with a specialization in finance and business. As a CPA with experience in the industry, she’s able to provide unique insight into various monetary, financial and economic topics. When Veronica isn’t writing, you can find her watching the latest films!
Nissan accelerates UK electric car production
Japanese auto giant Nissan announced Friday it would invest up to £2 billion in UK electric car manufacturing, which the government touted as a sign of confidence in the sector.
Nissan said it will produce electric models of two best-selling cars, Juke and Qashqai, at its facility in Sunderland, northeast England, which is its biggest factory in Europe, building on UK net zero plans to switch away from dirty fossil-fuel vehicles.
The carmaker will plough £1.12 billion ($1.4 billion) into its UK operations and wider supply chain for research and development and manufacturing of the two new models, it added in a statement.
That will also spark further investment in infrastructure projects and the supply chain, including another electric car battery factory, bringing total investment to as much as £2 billion ($2.5 billion).
Nissan’s investment will support its UK workforce of 7,000 employees — and 30,000 jobs in the nation’s broader supply chain.
– Carbon neutrality plans –
“Exciting, electric vehicles are at the heart of our plans to achieve carbon neutrality,” said Nissan President and CEO Makoto Uchida.
“With electric versions of our core European models on the way, we are accelerating towards a new era for Nissan, for industry and for our customers.”
Uchida declared in September that there was “no going back” on the group’s electrification plans as it aims for 98 percent of European sales to be electric vehicles by 2027.
The news comes as Britain looks to take a leading role in the production of electric cars as companies and governments shift away from high-polluting automobiles.
The UK government confirmed Friday that it has awarded £15 million of funding towards a collaborative R&D project for zero-emission vehicles led by Nissan.
“Nissan’s investment is a massive vote of confidence in the UK’s automotive industry, which already contributes a massive £71 billion a year to our economy,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who will attend a formal announcement at the site later on Friday.
“This venture will no doubt secure Sunderland’s future as the UK’s Silicon Valley for electric vehicle innovation and manufacturing.
“Making the UK the best place to do business is at the heart of our economic plan.”
Finance minister Jeremy Hunt pledged Wednesday in his budget update to invest £4.5 billion in strategic sectors including the auto industry.
– Net zero targets –
However, earlier this year Sunak softened policies aimed at reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, delaying a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035.
That still means however that the country’s largely foreign-owned car manufacturing sector must switch to producing fully-electric vehicles.
Nissan had previously warned that a no-deal Brexit would threaten the Sunderland site, but committed to its future after the government agreed a trade deal.
Yet the nation’s car industry has warned that automakers will soon face a damaging 10-percent hike in customs duties on electric cars crossing the Channel.
Britain left the European Union in 2021 after clinching a last-gasp free trade agreement which removed tariffs on cars.
But under the deal, from January 1, 2024, at least 45 percent of the value of car parts must originate from Britain or the European Union to be exempt from customs duties.
That hits electric carmakers because their batteries often originate from China, despite UK efforts to establish production.
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