Following the completion of a multi-stakeholder research project aimed at breaking new ground in hydrogen technology, Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) has started testing of the world’s first fuel-cell articulated hauler prototype, the Volvo HX04. The results of the project will provide important insights into the possibilities provided by hydrogen and fuel cells as Volvo CE continues research for its future product development programs.
Besides battery-electric solutions, where Volvo CE is already offering the largest range of commercial products, the company’s work into sustainable power sources also includes exploring the potential of electrification through hydrogen fuel cell technology. Now, an important milestone has been reached with the testing of the hydrogen HX04.
The Volvo HX04 is the result of a research project running between 2018 and 2022, with funding from FFI, a national collaboration between the Swedish Innovation Agency VINNOVA, Swedish Energy Agency, and Swedish Transport Administration, to support sustainable vehicle strategic research, innovation and development. Partners include Volvo CE, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, who provided specialist competence on driveline development and safety, and PowerCell Sweden, a developer of fuel cell-based hydrogen-electric power solutions.
The development and building of the six-wheel prototype has largely been carried out at Volvo CE’s facility in Braås, Sweden—the same location where Gravel Charlie, the world’s first articulated hauler, was born back in 1966, giving the Volvo HX04 the nickname “Electric Charlie”. Engineers at the Technology Center in Eskilstuna, Sweden, have contributed with software development and knowledge gathered through its fuel cell test lab. While not commercially available, valuable insights from the concept will inevitably inform future production.
Infrastructure for hydrogen is still in development, which means refueling the Volvo HX04 is an important aspect to solve in the project. Shell installed a state-of-the-art hydrogen refueling station at the Volvo CE test track in Braås. Both Shell and Volvo Group are founding members of H2Accelerate, a collaboration of companies working to foster conditions for the mass market roll-out of hydrogen trucks in Europe.
The fueling process for hydrogen vehicles is fast—the Volvo HX04 is charged with 12 kg hydrogen in about 7.5 minutes, enabling it to operate for approximately four hours.