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Hydrogen Engines And Long-haul Trucking

Views: 0     Author: by Jim Nebergall, General Manager of the Hydrogen Engine Business     Publish Time: 2023-06-09      Origin:


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semi truck driving through forest

Hydrogen use in the transportation sector initially focused on hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV's). More recently, however, hydrogen vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs) are increasingly receiving attention, especially among medium and heavy-duty trucking applications. But why?

Hydrogen engines offer a zero-carbon pathway using the same hydrogen fuel as FCEV's. The difference is that ICE is a familiar technology for vehicle manufacturers, fleet operators and drivers and offers a lower upfront cost.


Cummins Inc. has announced the development of two hydrogen-fueled engines, specifically designed for the commercial vehicle and equipment markets. The X15H engine made its debut at ACT Expo in May 2023, while the B6.7H engine was displayed at the IAA Transportation exhibition in 2022. Both these engines were shown in concept trucks.

Hydrogen engine technology targets "hard-to-electrify" applications with:

  • Demanding duty cycles

  • High asset utilization

  • High route diversity

  • Challenging environmental conditions

An engine-based powertrain has proven to be very robust in these extreme and diverse conditions. This technology also doesn’t stress the grid, making it easier to adopt in specific applications.


Let's look at a more specific application, long-haul trucking – the lifeblood of our economy. While a FCEV could be the long-term solution to reaching zero emissions in the long-haul heavy-duty truck market, a hydrogen engine provides a complimentary solution for decarbonization.

On the surface, a hydrogen-powered truck is very similar to a natural gas-powered truck. The main differences between the two are the engine requirements, specifically the need for hardware and software to run on pure hydrogen. Another significant difference is its fuel storage system.

While natural gas-powered vehicles use Type 4 carbon fiber fuel tanks, they primarily store natural gas at 250bar of pressure. A hydrogen engine-powered vehicle will require different Type 4 carbon fiber fuel tanks to keep the fuel at 700bar. It's important to note that 700bar is not an industry-standard storage pressure. Cummins sees demand for both 350bar and 700bar systems, but a 700bar storage pressure enables more onboard fuel storage and extended range. Cummins and NPROXX announced a joint venture to continue to innovate in the hydrogen storage technology space.

As many of us know, vehicle range is a critical attribute for end-users, especially with any new technology. The downside to this higher pressure is the additional windings of carbon fiber on the fuel tanks, which increases the weight and cost of the system versus a natural gas-powered vehicle. Regardless, Cummins’ heavy-duty hydrogen engine is expected to reach a range of 500+ miles in most fleet operations, making it easy for fleets to integrate.

Interestingly, these same fuel tanks are used in both hydrogen engine and hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles. A successful hydrogen engine launch will build scale and accelerate the fuel tanks' cost reductions, further enabling fuel cells in the future.

The industry is also leveraging its experience with natural gas engines. As a more readily available technology, we can learn from its adoption and gather insights on fuel tanks, safety and facility requirements.


Cummins is working closely with fleet operators on the commercial viability of hydrogen engine technology. After extensive conversations, these are some of the points that resonate the most with OEMs and end-users:

  • Hydrogen engines use zero-carbon fuel and can be at scale production mid-decade.

  • They harness mature engine and powertrain technology and an extensive installed manufacturing base, creating a low initial cost.

  • The technology is familiar. It's an engine. It looks like an engine, it sounds like an engine, it fits where an engine fits and technicians know how to service an engine.

  • The engine empowers fleet operators to move to hydrogen as a fuel early. They can gain hydrogen fuel experience with engines as they wait for fuel cells to become commercially viable on a large scale.

  • Hydrogen engines and fuel cells share the same fueling infrastructure and on-board hydrogen storage. They also have commonalities with natural gas engine maintenance facilities.

To sum it up, hydrogen engines' significant carbon reduction potential, coupled with the speed to market, low initial cost and familiarity of the technology, make hydrogen engines quite compelling, and fleets are taking notice. This belief is evident as recent announcements from companies like Tata Motors, Buhler Industries and Werner Enterprises have expressed interest in Cummins 15-liter hydrogen engine. If your fleet is interested in hydrogen engines, please contact your favorite OEM. Current engine availability is under discussion and is confidential.

In the hydrogen engine space, there are still some unknowns to address, such as future regulatory frameworks. However, Cummins and the transportation industry recognize the technology's potential on the path to zero emissions. We are working to provide the best low to zero carbon solutions to our customers and partners.

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