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28 September 2022

Hydrogen diesel cost parity slashed by 8 years, says Loop Energy

Loop Energy, a Canadian designer and manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cells for commercial mobility, has unveiled its landmark 120kW fuel cell system at the IAA Transportation 2022 in Hannover, Germany.

The North American company claims that its new product represents a significant milestone that will advance the global hydrogen industry and will enable the fuel cell commercial transport industry to achieve fuel cost parity with diesel by four to eight years earlier than originally predicted.

Here at Rethink, we are long term advocates of the important role that fuel cells will play in heavy duty transportation, an analysis that can be accessed through our research paper entitled Heavy duty transport WILL rely more on hydrogen than batteries. A prediction that is now being confirmed by such technological advances.

The 120kW fuel cell system, named S1200, builds on Loop Energy’s existing technology and will provide an additional efficiency gain of 20% when it generates electricity, claims the company. Additionally, Loop believes that the S1200 will deliver up to 60% in net system efficiency (including power consumption of the air compressor, coolant pump and other sub-systems), and that the fuel to wheel efficiency of an electric vehicle using it will be more than twice that of a diesel engine (54% and 20-25% respectively).

Loop Energy explains that the technical reasons behind such jumps in efficiency revolve around its patented eFlow fuel cell architecture. Loop uses a signature trapezoid plate with narrowing channels for its bipolar plates, which increase the flow rate of the gas which adds up to improved performance and power output. This then translates to less hydrogen used per kilometer which lowers the cost of running such a vehicle.

The Opex (operating costs) makes up roughly half of the total cost of ownership for heavy duty hydrogen vehicles, which makes advancements in fuel efficiency a significant factor in creating a tipping point for commercial transition from diesel to clean fuels.

The S1200 will be aimed at the medium and heavy-duty transportation market and represents a step up from Loop’s other fuel cell products.

Among the many features of the S1200, Loop also mentions a freeze-start capability and a wide cruise mode window that ensures high fuel efficiency across a wide range of power demands for different routes and driving conditions.

With the price of diesel being around $1.83 to $2.28/L in Europe, the fuel cost per 100 km for a typical truck is between $88 and $109 (48 liters per 100 km fuel consumption). Assuming a 44% diesel engine efficiency, Loop has calculated that the required energy to complete the 100 km journey is 212 kWh.

A hydrogen powered truck using its S1200 and 15% regenerative breaking would use $90 worth of hydrogen at today’s $10/kg prices for the gas – maybe a generous assumption – bringing hydrogen in the same territory as diesel, price wise.

A typical fuel cell system (40% efficiency) would bring that price up to around $120 for the same 100 km making hydrogen less economically viable as an alternative to diesel. But improved efficiencies combined with the expected drop in hydrogen prices – Rethink believes it will reach a low $1.5/kg by 2030 – means that the shift away from internal combustion engines will be a no brainer for the transportation sector.

Behavior adopted by some big players in the sector such as Daimler Truck and Volvo are known to have invested heavily in hydrogen fuel cells.

We see once again that heavy investment and technological improvements in the hydrogen sector allows for an accelerated transition due to efficiency gains and price parity.