JTC, Singapore fuel cell maker Spectronik to start hydrogen truck trials in Q4

The Business Times 04 Jul 2023 Share
TRIALS of Singapore’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered light commercial vehicle (LCV) will start in the fourth quarter of 2023, statutory board JTC and Singapore-based fuel cell manufacturer Spectronik announced on Monday (Jul 3)

The one-year trial is of a single-prototype light truck, modified from an existing electric vehicle (EV) model. Named the “Cruiser”, the hydrogen-powered vehicle will run at low speed on roads inside Jurong Innovation District, with the final route pending approval from the Land Transport Authority.

The trial aims to investigate the commercial feasibility of fuel cell technology in a real-life setting, said Jogjaman Jap, chief executive of Spectronik. This includes understanding day-to-day operations with the vehicle, as well as maintenance, scalability, and hydrogen storage and transport.

After the first six months, Spectronik will consider expanding the trial to include external partners, to test the use of the vehicle in deliveries or logistics.

Within the next five years, the company plans to introduce a fleet of fuel cell LCVs – which could include vans and minibuses – on public roads.

Founded in 2011, Spectronik has around 100 patents on its fuel cell technology, which it has supplied to Boeing and Toyota. Fuel cells produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen, with water as the only by-product of the process.

Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles have advantages over battery-powered EVs in terms of range and refuelling time, but significant concerns remain over upfront costs, hydrogen infrastructure, handling and safety, and the sourcing of the hydrogen itself.

With a fuel cell system, the original EV’s performance improves considerably, said Spectronik. The fuel cell system adds around 15 kg of weight, but boosts the vehicle’s range from 195 km per battery charge to 350 km on a kilogram of hydrogen. Refuelling the vehicle takes around five minutes.

Spectronik is also planning a long-range version of the Cruiser, with a tank that can hold 2 kg of hydrogen and deliver 500 km of range.

The Cruiser can carry four people and up to one tonne of cargo, and has a maximum speed of 44 km/h. This low maximum speed was chosen as fuel cell vehicles may have applications that are not on public roads, such as in airports and sea terminals, added Jap.

Director of JTC’s logistics and transport cluster Anil Das said the forthcoming trial was a “new milestone” for Singapore’s development of mobility solutions and the public sector’s goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.

This is not the first time hydrogen vehicles have been tested in Singapore. In 2004, DaimlerChrysler tested six hydrogen-powered Mercedes-Benz cars, and BP built two hydrogen-filling stations to support the test.

But there are still barriers to the adoption of hydrogen-powered vehicles. There are currently no publicly or commercially available hydrogen refuelling stations here, because transporting and storing hydrogen – as a pressurised gas – requires significant capital investment.

A 2019 US Department of Energy study stated that the average cost of 46 hydrogen-filling stations built from 2015 were US$2.2 million each.

Abroad, vehicle manufacturers such as Citroen, Opel, Peugeot and Renault have begun to offer hydrogen LCVs, but none are currently for sale in Singapore.

Producing hydrogen itself can also incur significant carbon emissions. Green hydrogen produced via electrolysis has lower carbon emissions, but it is inefficient and requires large amounts of electricity.

Beyond vehicles, Singapore is looking at hydrogen as a broader source of electricity, with its National Hydrogen Strategy aiming to use it as a “major decarbonisation pathway” towards reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Hydrogen could supply up to half of Singapore’s power needs by that date, the Energy Market Authority said.

The Business Times 04 Jul 2023