British startup Tevva launches hydrogen-electric truck

UK-based startup Tevva launched a hydrogen-electric truck on Thursday, becoming the latest company to play a role in an industry that has sparked interest from multinationals such as Daimler Truck and Volvo.

According to Tevva, which says it has raised $140 million in funding, its vehicle will have a range of a whopping 310 miles, or just under 500 kilometers.

Refilling the hydrogen tanks takes 10 minutes, while charging the battery “from completely empty to 100%” takes five to six hours.

The company’s first hydrogen-electric truck will weigh 7.5 tons, with later versions planned for 12 and 19 tons.

In a statement, Tevva attempted to explain the rationale behind combining a fuel cell and battery. “The fuel cell system supplements the battery, increasing the vehicle’s range and allowing the truck to carry heavier loads over longer distances.”

In addition to the hydrogen-electric truck, the company has also developed an electric truck that it claims has a range of up to 160 miles. Details of both the electric and hydrogen-electric trucks had been previously announced by Tevva.

In an interview with CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Thursday, Tevva CEO Asher Bennett was asked if his company was looking to diversify into smaller vehicles.

“We’re not interested in developing the smaller vans or the pickup trucks,” Bennett said. “That’s very similar technology in many cases to the larger EV sedans, which work very well,” he added.

“We are very focused on the heavy trucks and we are slowly getting heavier and heavier because those are the segments that are much harder to electrify.”

As governments around the world look to reduce the environmental footprint of transportation, a number of companies in the trucking sector are exploring ways to develop low- and zero-emission vehicles, including those that use hydrogen.

Last month, Volvo Trucks said it began testing vehicles that use “hydrogen fuel cells”, with the Swedish company claiming their range could be as much as 1,000 kilometers, or just over 621 miles.

Volvo Trucks, headquartered in Gothenburg, said refueling the vehicles would take less than 15 minutes. Customer pilots will begin in the coming years, with commercialization “planned for the latter part of this decade”.

In addition to vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, Volvo Trucks — part of the Volvo Group — has also developed battery-electric trucks.

Like Volvo Trucks and Tevva, Daimler Truck focuses on both battery-electric vehicles and vehicles that use hydrogen.

In an interview with CNBC last year, Daimler Truck chairman Martin Daum was asked about the debate between battery electric and hydrogen fuel cells.

“We’re going for both because both … make sense,” he replied, before explaining how different technologies would be appropriate in different scenarios.

While there is excitement in some quarters about the potential of hydrogen-powered vehicles, there are obstacles when it comes to expanding the sector, not least when it comes to developing an adequate refueling infrastructure. The way in which hydrogen is produced is also a problem.

Both points were recognized by Volvo Trucks in June when it pointed to challenges, including the “large-scale supply of green hydrogen” and “the fact that the heavy vehicle refueling infrastructure has yet to be developed”.

Hydrogen can be produced in several ways. One method involves the use of electrolysis, in which an electric current splits water into oxygen and hydrogen.

If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar, some call it “green” or “renewable” hydrogen. Today, the vast majority of hydrogen production is based on fossil fuels.

For its part, Tevva said it would help its customers “gain safe and easy access to sustainable and affordable hydrogen supplies, in addition to their purchase or lease of Tevva Hydrogen Trucks.”