Argonne Nat’l Lab is spending big bucks to study BIG hydrogen vehicles

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Argonne National Laboratory is building a new research and development facility to independently test large-scale hydrogen fuel cell systems for heavy-duty and off-road applications with funding from the US Department of Energy.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is hoping Argonne Nat’l Lab’s extensive fuel cell research experience, which dates back to 1996, will give it unique insights as it evaluates new polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems ranging from 150 to 600 kilowatts for use in industrial vehicle and stationary power generation applications.

The new Argonne test facility will help prove (or, it should be said, disprove) the validity of hydrogen as a viable fuel for transportation applications including heavy trucks, railroad locomotives, marine vessels, and heavy machines used in the agriculture, construction, and mining industries.

“The facility will serve as a national resource for analysis and testing of heavy-duty fuel cell systems for developers, technology integrators and end-users in heavy-duty transportation applications including [OTR] trucks, railroad locomotives, marine vessels, aircraft and vehicles used in the agriculture, construction and mining industries,” explains Ted Krause, laboratory relationship manager for Argonne’s hydrogen and fuel cell programs. “The testing infrastructure will help advance fuel cell performance and pave the way toward integrating the technology into all of these transportation applications.”

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO) of DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is dedicating about $4 million to help build the new Argonne facility, which is set to come online next fall.

Electrek’s Take

Medium-sized Hydrogen FC excavator concept; via Komatsu.

It’s going to be hard to convince me that the concentrated push for a technology as inefficient as hydrogen fuel cells has more to do with any real consumer or climate benefit than it does keeping the throngs of people it will take to manufacture, capture, transport, store, house, and effectively dispense hydrogen gainfully employed through the next election cycle.

As such, while case studies like the hydrogen combustion-powered heavy trucks that have been trialed at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena mine since 2021 (at top) and fuel cell-powered concepts like Komatsu’s medium-sized excavator (above) have proven that hydrogen as a fuel can definitely work on a job site level while producing far fewer harmful emissions than diesel, I think swappable batteries like the ones being shown off by Moog Construction and Firstgreen have a far brighter future.

Speaking of Moog, we talked to some of the engineers being their ZQuip modular battery systems on a HEP-isode of The Heavy Equipment Podcast a few months back. I’ve included it, below, in case that’s something you’d like to check out.

SOURCES | IMAGES: ANL, Komatsu, and NPROXX.

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