Hydrogen lorries: Will fleets use them?

Is the future really electric or are there some creditable alternatives being developed? For fleet managers, electric vehicles are often presented as the only option for the future of fleets. However, this is unlikely to be the case. There are many alternative fuels in development as we prepare for the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in 2030. Previously, we have discussed HVO as a potential option but fleet managers should also evaluate if hydrogen-powered vehicles could form a part of their future fleet profile. Hydrogen-powered vehicles are currently seeing an increase in interest as the technology has seen huge steps forward in recent years. So, are hydrogen-powered HGVs viable for fleets?

How do hydrogen HGVs work?


There are a couple of ways that HGV engines can be structured to use hydrogen as a fuel. For example, hydrogen combustion engines operate similarly to regular internal combustion engines (ICEs). There are also hydrogen fuel cell engines, which are the most prominent option in development.

Hydrogen fuel cells use electrochemical reactions to create usable power for a variety of applications and sectors. When applied to engines, a fuel cell is quite like a battery, except that it creates its own electricity from fuel instead of needing to be charged.

Hydrogen fuel cells use both hydrogen and oxygen to power the motor of the vehicle. The process works as follows:

Step one

A fuel cell is made up of a cathode, an anode, and an electrolyte membrane.

Hydrogen fuel cell step two

Oxygen travels to the cathode of the fuel cell. Meanwhile, the hydrogen atoms travel to the anode, where they are split into protons and electrons.

Hydrogen fuel cell step three

The hydrogen electrodes go through a circuit, generating heat and electricity. 

Hydrogen fuel cell step four

The hydrogen protons, now positively charged, travel through the electrolyte membrane.

Hydrogen fuel cells step five

When the electrons have travelled through the circuit and the protons have travelled through the membrane, they meet at the cathode and react with the oxygen to create water/H2O.

How do hydrogen fuel cells work?

The only by-products of hydrogen fuel cells are heat and water, with no carbon emissions. This makes them an exciting option to add to the UK’s transportation network ahead of 2030. So, what do we need to consider when looking at the possibility of adding hydrogen lorries to our fleets?

Won’t fleets be using electric vehicles?

Hydrogen-powered HGVs are currently in development worldwide as the technology plays catch up to electric vehicles. For fleet operators, the option of incorporating hydrogen HGVs will potentially circumvent some of the worries that have been raised by the switch to EVs.


Even with the vast development of the UK’s electric vehicle network, there are still major doubts about if EV technology will be able to support heavier fleet and transportation activity. This is mainly due to the shortened ranges that EVs have before needing to refuel when compared to diesel vehicles. The length of time needed to recharge EVs is also a concern as it will potentially cause delays for drivers.

What could hydrogen fuel mean for HGV fleets in the future?


It was recently announced that Tevva, an Essex-based company, has added a hydrogen fuel cell to their electric HGV design, to support the battery and ensure there is a backup in case the vehicle runs out of charge on the road, increasing its range to 310 miles. This is an important milestone as it marks the first hydrogen-powered vehicle to be designed and manufactured in the UK, showing strides forwards in the technology and its commercial ability.

Volvo Trucks is also in the process of testing a zero-emissions HGV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, which is reporting a range of up to 1,000km (621 miles) and a refuelling time of 15 minutes. At the rate of their current testing, this HGV would be on sale in the latter half of the decade.

In terms of the wider future of hydrogen-powered HGVs, Element Energy Ltd carried out a study to “provide costs, efficiencies and roll-out trajectories for zero-emission HGVs, buses and coaches” back in 2020. Their prediction regarding hydrogen-powered LGVs (referred to in the study as FCEV or Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) was that, by 2050, hydrogen-powered vehicles would not be as cost-effective as electric vehicles due to the infrastructural support behind EVs. However, they have posited that “FCEV refuelling is easier to manage than BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles) recharging, and some operators may be willing to pay a cost premium for the vehicles to save driver time and operational complexity.”

When asked about the future of hydrogen-powered fleets, Roger Elm, President of Volvo Trucks, said “My clear message to all transport companies is to start the journey today with battery-electric, biogas, and other options available. The fuel cell trucks will be an important complement for longer and heavier transports in a few years from now.

Mixed fleets do look to be the way forward as we leave fossil fuels behind. Electric cars will no doubt make up the majority of fleet vehicles in the future as they’re a perfect option for company cars. Meanwhile, larger transport vehicles, such as HGVs, and more time-poor fleets will likely turn to the advantages of hydrogen-powered lorries.

In the meantime, HVO is also a great option for those wanting to bridge the gap and cut down on CO2 usage as we move over to carbon neutral options, as many diesel vehicles do not need any alterations to use it as fuel.

Image of lorry shape in trees from above

Advantages of hydrogen-powered lorries


With hydrogen lorries looking on their way to becoming a viable option for fleets by the end of the decade, it’s important for fleet managers to spend the run-up researching the possibilities of the technology to decide if it’s right for them. There are 5 main benefits to consider when thinking about the future of hydrogen-powered HGVs:


1. The reduction in carbon emissions. The only by-products would be water and heat.


2. Fuel cells are much quieter than combustion engines as there are no moving parts, leading to much quieter roads and working environments for your drivers.


3. Hydrogen can be refuelled quickly. As opposed to electric battery-powered vehicles, which need to be charged for long periods of time, hydrogen fuel cells just need to be refilled.


4. Hydrogen fuel cells convert energy more efficiently than traditional combustion engines, so you get more power and distance for the same amount of fuel.


5. Hydrogen fuel cells give HGVs a greater range than electric vehicles.

Disadvantages of hydrogen-powered lorries


However, there are also drawbacks to using hydrogen for fleets. Most of these disadvantages are due to hydrogen vehicles being in the relatively early stages of their development. These include:

1. A current lack of investment in the infrastructure needed for hydrogen vehicles to be viable for fleet usage. Political support would be needed to make sure the UK is able to offer adequate refuelling points, grants, or vehicle options for hydrogen HGVs.

2. As there is currently very little infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles, this will limit the number of places that hydrogen-powered vehicles can be repaired.

3. To be used as fuel, hydrogen needs to be extracted from water using electrolysis, which can be expensive due to the materials needed for this process. The expense needed to create hydrogen fuel will bump up the cost for consumers.

It is worth noting that, if hydrogen-powered fleets see the same level of rollout as electric vehicles, more issues with commercial use may come to light.

When looking at the future of fleets, it can be overwhelming to consider which option may be right for you. As we get closer to the government’s deadline, it is looking more likely that large fleets will use a mix of fuel sources past 2030. If you would like a consultation regarding your fleet operations, including a detailed invoice analysis to break down your current fuel usage, get in touch with our team today.

Navigating Fuel-Dependent Businesses Going Green

Climate change has become an unavoidable topic in the last few years, and the government is beginning to push the UK towards a greener and more sustainable future, including creating incentives for businesses going green. However, the pressure to reduce dependence on fossil fuels puts more strain on the many industries that currently rely on it.


As the government unveils plans to reduce fuel dependence, we’ve got a few tips to offer fuel-dependent businesses to help keep your drivers and fleet ahead of the game during this time of transition.


What is Climate Change?

There are often a lot of buzzwords and technical terms thrown around to do with climate change, and it can be a complex topic. However, the most basic definition of climate change is that the global temperature is experiencing a significant shift, which can have a series of effects from the inconvenient to the disastrous.


Due to the invention and progression of certain technologies and fuels, greenhouse gases (particularly carbon dioxide) are pumped into the air. These trap the heat from the sun and slowly warm the planet.


As the effects of climate change make themselves more apparent, the need to change certain patterns and behaviours is clear. In the UK, 2020 was the first year since records began over a century ago to stand in the top ten for heat, rain and hours of sunshine.


As more studies have been done and climate change has become better understood, many countries have implemented policies to reduce pollution on a national or international scale, with fuel and alternative sources being put under the spotlight.


Why Should Businesses Go Green?

It can be frustrating for fuel-dependent businesses to face the challenges associated with going green, such as the cost of investing in greener technology. However, there are several benefits of going green for a business.


  1. Most importantly, saving the environment is a global issue that requires a global response.

Change on a global level is necessary – according to the Yale Environment Review, the ‘point of no return’ (after which no amount of aggressive action will stop the global climate from rising more than two degrees and causing potentially irreversible damage to the planet) is in 2035.
This means that aggressive action is needed now, and businesses going green is necessary as everyone needs to commit to adapting to the new standards.


  1. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, then think of your customers – according to a study by Deloitte, one in five people have stopped using a certain brand if it doesn’t align with their values.

Add that to the fact that 38% of respondents ranked climate change as the number one most important issue to them, and you can clearly see the benefits of going green for a business.


  1. Furthermore, it’s not really an option any more.

Governments plans, goals and initiatives are being implemented to encourage or insist that businesses become more environmentally friendly. You can learn more about the UK government’s ten-point plan to reach net-zero by 2050 and the effects that could have on your business over on our blog.


What Does Going Green Mean for Businesses?

Okay, so we’ve established that your business should consider becoming more environmentally friendly (if you aren’t already doing so). The question remains, though, how do you do that as a fuel-dependent business?


This can feel particularly daunting for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); replacing existing machinery or resources with more environmentally-friendly options can potentially be a large expense which many SMEs may struggle to meet. However, SMEs’ advantage is their flexibility, which may help them adapt more easily to changing standards and requirements.


The methods of businesses going green vary greatly. However, if large-scale changes aren’t feasible right now, even small changes, such as switching out the office light bulbs and letting employees work from home where possible to reduce commutes, can make a significant difference over time.


If you’d like to go greener, but you’re not sure where to start, our twelve ways to reduce your business’s carbon footprint are a great jumping-off point!


Additionally, many grants and loans are available for businesses going green, including tax reliefs for businesses investing in green technology, support for businesses heated using biomass fuel, and even competitions rewarded by funding. Find more information or contact your local authority to discuss grants and funding in your area.

A UK fuel station at night

The Future of Diesel and Electric Vehicles

There’s no denying it – with the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles being banned in less than ten years as part of the government’s plan to focus on green resources, the future of diesel looks a little bleak.


Other energy sources are available and being improved upon all the time, including electric vehicles, HVO fuel, biofuel and hybrid vehicles, to name a few. Additionally, as alternative energy sources become more necessary, more studies are being undertaken to set up a more sustainable future.


In contrast to diesel and petrol, it looks like electricity will have a bright future as one of the dominant forms of energy. With more homes and businesses going green, plans are being drawn up to create easier access to electric charge points because electricity is a renewable source of energy and one of the more affordable alternative options to fossil fuels.

What Else Is Changing?

As the plans to reduce carbon emissions start to kick in, we’ll start seeing changes across the country and in a range of industries. Notably, as of 2022, there will be changes to the sale and use of rebated gas oil (known as ‘red diesel’) – see our guide to the red diesel tax change for more information.


This will affect industries from construction to waste management and everything in between. Of course, there are alternatives available, including Superheat35 for heating purposes and Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) fuel, but the disruption will still affect numerous companies.


Additionally, it’s worth considering what will happen to petrol stations as the world goes electric. By 2030, there will be substantially fewer vehicles frequenting petrol stations, and by 2040 petrol will be all but moot. As a result, petrol stations will have to adapt quickly if they are to continue to exist, or they’ll risk being lost to the history books.


Petrol stations are currently a widely-used, easily-accessible source of fuel. Still, as petrol and diesel become less financially lucrative, it’s reasonable to believe access will become more limited.


What Does Going Green Mean for Fleets and the Haulage Industry?

It’s the million-dollar question – with all of the changes being put into place, what exactly does all of this mean for fleets and the haulage industry? Many companies within this industry, at the moment, largely rely on petrol or diesel fuel to stay on the road. In fact, currently, fleet vehicles are more likely to be equipped with a diesel engine than passenger vehicles. Ten years after the ban on petrol and diesel for cars and vans, in 2040, a similar ban will come into place for HGVs.


Many fleet managers believe that the haulage industry will be almost completely unrecognisable in the next few years, with a total overhaul needed to continue operations in the new climate. So, it’s important to prepare your business before it happens.


A key pre-emptive measure of businesses going green is to remain on top of your current fuel usage. One of the benefits of using fuel cards for your business is that you can track the routes your drivers are taking and where they typically stop to fuel up, and this will put you in a better position as availability changes. Check out our telematics software system and how to use and store fleet data to find out more.

Does the Future of Fleets Look Electric?

As alternative vehicles gain in popularity, you’ll need to consider what type of alternative energy your fleet will use which, of course, will depend on what type of transport you require and your budget. In addition, as your business changes or expands, you’ll need to consider fleet buying in a changing world and educating your haulage team appropriately.


McKinsey Sustainability estimates that by 2030, fleets of electric vehicles will have a total cost of ownership that is 15 to 25% lower than that of internal combustion engines. Additionally, as electric cars become more popular among domestic users, the availability of electric charging points is set to skyrocket in the coming years.


At Fuelmate, we think electric fleets and businesses going green are great ideas; we’ve already rolled out our Chargemate payment card, designed to allow you to continue tracking how your vehicles are used using charging point data instead of petrol stations.



So, there you have it – our top tips on navigating going green for fuel-dependent businesses. We know there’s a lot to unpack here, and thinking about how much change will happen over the next few years can be overwhelming, but rest assured that here at Fuelmate, we’ll be by your side and help you through it every step of the way.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our friendly team today, or have a look at our blog for more fleet management tips.

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