Clean hydrogen has long been touted as the only long-term green solution for long-distance trucking, due to claims that batteries will never be able to provide the power and energy required.

But one of the world’s largest heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers, Volkswagen-owned Scania, which has produced both battery- and hydrogen-powered vehicles, has concluded that H2 will be too inefficient and expensive for long-distance transport.

“Scania has invested in hydrogen technologies and is currently the only heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer with vehicles in operations with customers… However, going forward the use of hydrogen for such applications will be limited since three times as much renewable electricity is needed to power a hydrogen truck compared to a battery electric truck. A great deal of energy is namely lost in the production, distribution, and conversion back to electricity,” the Swedish manufacturer said in a statement.

“Repair and maintenance also need to be considered. The cost for a hydrogen vehicle will be higher than for a battery electric vehicle as its systems are more complex, such as an extensive air- and cooling system. Furthermore, hydrogen is a volatile gas which requires more maintenance to ensure safety.

“Scania’s aim is to be the leader in the shift towards a sustainable transport system. Battery electric vehicles will be the main tool to drive this shift and to enable decarbonised transport solutions with better transport economy to customers.”

It adds that battery technology is advancing quickly, with charging time, charging cycles and economics per kilogram improving rapidly.

“This means these solutions will become more cost effective, primarily in repetitive and predictable applications. They will gradually overtake Scania’s industry-leading fossil and biofuel powered solutions in most transport applications.

“In a few years’ time, Scania plans to introduce long-distance electric trucks that will be able to carry a total weight of 40 tonnes for 4.5 hours, and fast charge during the drivers’ compulsory 45-minute rest.”

The company expects electric vehicles to account for 10% of its sales in Europe by 2025 and 50% of its total global sales by 2030.

Scania also announced a commitment to launch “at least one new electric product application in the bus and truck segment every year”.

In September last year, it unveiled its first fully electric truck with a range of up to 250km.

New battery chemistries are being developed that promise a greater driving range than the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles to date. For instance, US start-up Lavle is building a gigafactory for lithium-metal batteries that have twice the energy density of Li-ion, and would therefore double the distance that a vehicle would be able to drive.