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New roads and challenges for fuel cells in heavy-duty transportation


The recent release of hydrogen economy roadmaps for several major countries emphasizes the need for accelerated worldwide investment in research and development activities for hydrogen production, storage, infrastructure and utilization in transportation, industry and the electrical grid. Due to the high gravimetric energy density of hydrogen, the focus of technologies that utilize this fuel has recently shifted from light-duty automotive to heavy-duty vehicle applications. Decades of development of cost-effective and durable polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells must now be leveraged to meet the increased efficiency and durability requirements of the heavy-duty vehicle market. This Review summarizes the latest market outlooks and targets for truck, bus, locomotive and marine applications. Required changes to the fuel-cell system and operating conditions for meeting Class 8 long-haul truck targets are presented. The necessary improvements in fuel-cell materials and integration are also discussed against the benchmark of current passenger fuel-cell electric vehicles.

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Fig. 1: Roadmap to hydrogen fuel cells for transportation.
Fig. 2: Summary of fuel-cell targets and lifetimes.
Fig. 3: System demand and strategies for a HDV fuel-cell system.
Fig. 4: Design space for fuel cells.
Fig. 5: Impact of catalyst alloying on fuel-cell performance change over lifetime.
Fig. 6: Performance–durability impact on transport resistance in fuel-cell electrodes.
Fig. 7: Current state-of-the-art materials used in passenger fuel-cell vehicles and their characterization results.


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This work was supported by the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, US Department of Energy (DOE) through the Fuel Cell Performance and Durability (FC-PAD) and Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck (M2FCT) consortia, technology managers G. Kleen and D. Papageorgopoulos. It is also supported by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231, the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, which is a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory under contract no. DE-AC05-00OR22725, Los Alamos National Laboratory under contract no. 89233218CNA000001, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, operated by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the US DOE under contract no. DE-AC36-08GO28308 and by UChicago Argonne, LLC, Operator of Argonne National Laboratory, a US Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory operated under contract no. DE-AC02-06CH11357. The views expressed in the article do not necessarily represent the views of the DOE or the US government.

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Cullen, D.A., Neyerlin, K.C., Ahluwalia, R.K. et al. New roads and challenges for fuel cells in heavy-duty transportation. Nat Energy (2021).

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