Honda and Isuzu to test fuel cell-powered heavy-duty trucks

Posted on 22 Jan 2020 by Tim Brown

Honda and Isuzu have collaborated to conduct a joint research project where they will use hydrogen fuel cells to power heavy-duty trucks.

An Isuzu NPR Gas Cab Chassis commercial truck - image courtesy of Isuzu
An Isuzu NPR Gas Cab Chassis commercial truck – image courtesy of Isuzu.

The Japanese automotive manufacturers, which are aiming to expand the use of fuel cells to apply zero-emission technology to larger vehicles, will be sharing their technological expertise under a two-year official contract.

Under the agreement, Honda’s expertise in developing fuel cell systems will be combined with Isuzu’s specialty in building heavy-duty trucks. The latter’s intention to test Honda’s fuel cell drive train in its commercial vehicles would expand the scope for the entire automotive industry, as the technology could be used in a wide range of vehicles in the future.

This is the first time that Honda has given an ‘outsider’ access to its fuel cell technology.

Importance of hydrogen for commercial vehicles

Speaking with reporters, a Honda spokesperson said: “Although we have done extensive R&D into passenger FCVs (fuel cell vehicles), we have not been able to study how best to apply the technology to commercial vehicles. This partnership will allow us to do that.”

Isuzu has been endorsing the use of low-carbon and sustainable energy for quite some time. To achieve that goal, the company has been researching and developing different powertrains, such as clean diesel engines, engines for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and electric vehicles (EV) powertrains. Similarly, Honda has been putting efforts to promote carbon-free society and thus has been involved in researching and developing FCVs for over three decades.

Vehicles running on hydrogen fuel cells have been lauded as an ultimate eco-friendly transport owing to their absolute zero greenhouse emissions and typically providing greater mileage and faster refuelling than EVs. However, the lack of proper refuelling infrastructure has greatly restrained the adoption of these vehicles.

As global emissions regulations have continued to tighten every year, automobile companies are developing a greater number of EVs. Most industry experts perceive EVs as the answer for passenger cars in city areas, but hydrogen fuel cells are often touted as an efficient solution for longer journeys and to power large vehicles like buses and trucks.

The global market for hydrogen autos totalled only about 4,000 vehicles in 2018, compared with 1.4 million EVs sold in the same year.