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Hydrogen truck – second in world for commercial operations

28 July 2023
It sails up the Bombay Hills, accelerates faster than fossil fuel vehicles, and incurs less driver fatigue – some of the key findings from a trial of NZ Post’s new zero emission, hydrogen fuel cell-powered truck. The zero emission, cutting-edge Hyundai XCIENT FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) is a new generation hydrogen vehicle used for the first time here for commercial heavy transport.

Since it was launched in July last year, it has completed an initial evaluation period before moving into full commercial operations with parcel freight between Auckland and Hamilton to assess its performance on New Zealand roads and conditions.

Heavy transport experts from NZ Post and Hyundai Motors New Zealand evaluating the truck’s performance are thrilled with the results in both open road and urban routes. They hope it will pave the way for uptake of this new technology in the sector as key to reducing carbon emissions.

Based on typical heavy vehicle mileage one fuel cell EV truck in operation avoids the equivalent CO2 of around 112 fossil fuel light vehicles – making a big difference with each heavy fuel cell vehicle.

Ryan Beale, NZ Post’s National Road Operations manager who has been overseeing the trial, says current testing has the hydrogen truck operating around the South Auckland business area and between NZ Post’s South Auckland and Highbrook depots.

Longer-range testing has been between Highbrook and Waikato depots. The truck has been clocking between 350 and 400kms a day, at an optimal cruise speed of 85-88kms, maintaining the same point to point schedule time.

“The testing is to evaluate the vehicle’s suitability for our freight and the routes we serve,” says Ryan. “Within the current constraints, refuelling is taking place in Auckland while we await further network development.”

New, government-funded hydrogen refuelling sites are due to open in Wiri, Te Rapa, Tauranga, and Palmerston North in coming months, enabling refuel in 15 minutes with state-of-the-art technology. These additional fuelling sites will open up longer routes and 24/7 operations.

Ryan says the hydrogen truck configured for European standards and conditions underwent an extensive range of tests and software adjustments to meet operational standards and compliance requirements for New Zealand regulations and road conditions before it was ready for the trial.

Grant Doull, National Manager Hydrogen & Eco Commercial Vehicles at Hyundai Motors New Zealand says New Zealand is second in world to adopt this technology in a commercial setting. The other is Switzerland where 50 such trucks in commercial use.

“This project has been two years in the making. This truck is ideal for NZ Post as a transporter of high volume, lower weight freight,” he says. Evidence and performance data gathered in the trial will be of value to everybody in transport sector, he says.

“It’s been a valuable partnership with NZ Post who are strong in sustainability leadership to trial this future-focussed technology.”

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