The Road to High Efficiency Long Haul Class-8 HD FCEV, a Holistic Approach to Meet Performance and Durability

V.S. Murthi
Nikola Corporation,
United States

Keywords: heavy duty fcev, fuel cells, hydrogen


Nikola is driven to revolutionize the economic and environmental impact of commerce, and is striving to globally transform the transportation industry. The Nikola TRE Class-8 fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) is designed to operate for >25,000 hours under varying ambient conditions and terrain. Given the increased lifetime requirements, higher cruising power demand, and with gross combined weight of 80,000 lbs for the truck, there needs to be a focused effort to overcome key sub-system technology obstacles within the propulsion unit. This presentation will discuss the unique challenges faced by the sustainable transportation industry and the innovations needed for the widespread adoption of heavy-duty FCEVs. Moreover, for the Fuel Cell Power Module to meet HD FCEV performance and durability requirements, while also meeting cost and low PGM loading targets, a new approach to materials development and a unique MEA design is needed. Due to the fundamental use-case differences between light-duty passenger vehicles and HD FCEVs and their respective operating conditions, it is essential to re-examine the magnitude of stressors that the fuel cell materials experience during HD truck operation and re-design the MEAs and membranes appropriately. Importantly, stressors that may not have been as critical in light-duty operation may seriously impact durability and efficiency of MEAs in HD vehicles. Consistent with the philosophy of reducing total cost of ownership (TCO), minimizing fuel costs, and improving overall system efficiency, the development of high-performance durable membrane electrode assemblies in a stack for heavy-duty applications should be prioritized. Areas within the MEA that require significant technology development will be outlined.