In 2020, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies (HFTO) established the Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck Consortium (M2FCT) to capitalize on the potential fuel cell opportunities in the Heavy Duty Vehicle (HDV) market align with the H2 @ Scale vision for clean and affordable hydrogen in several economic sectors. (Previous post.)

A team of five national laboratories led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will target a team of five national laboratories funded by DOE HFTO over five years set to demonstrate 2030 systems with a 25,000 hour or 1 million mile life for long-haul trucks.

The M2FCT team in a recent Nature Energy study outlined the current and future prospects and challenges of hydrogen fuel cells for heavy duty vehicles, including trucks, buses, trains and marine applications. Co-authors included scientists from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), the LANL, and the Berkeley Lab.

The heavy-duty vehicle market could be one way to get fuel cell technology up and running quickly. This will encourage building the necessary hydrogen refueling infrastructure with less infrastructure investment as trucks travel predictable distances.

—LANL program manager Rod Borup, the co-director of M2FCT

Berkeley Lab scientist Ahmet Kusoglu, corresponding author of the study, notes that heavy-duty vehicles make up a small portion of the vehicle fleet in the US and only cover 10% of the total annual vehicle miles, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, they account for 23% of transport emissions of greenhouse gases in the US. In addition, HDVs make up almost a quarter of the fuel consumed annually in the United States.

The sudden increase in interest in hydrogen as a fuel for HDV requires a rapid expansion of research and development (R&D) to extend the life of fuel cell components.

– ORNL scientist David Cullen, the study’s lead author

In late 2019, DOE’s HFTO and Vehicle Technologies Offices published technical goals for hydrogen-powered long-haul Class 8 trucks. These goals kickstart the work M2FCT researchers are now beginning by leading early-stage research and development. The study recently published by M2FCT uses class 8 long-haul trucks as a case study to show how different design features affect efficiency and durability, and how the advances made in light commercial vehicles can be used to meet the needs of heavy-duty vehicles.

To meet the DOE targets for long-haul hydrogen-powered tractor units, M2FCT researchers identified the key differences between the development of hydrogen fuel cells for light commercial vehicles and heavy commercial vehicles.

According to ANL chemist Deborah Myers, the challenge is that, in addition to the three to five times longer service life compared to light duty vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles need a higher cell voltage in order to achieve optimal efficiency, which places higher demands on the performance and durability of the fuel cell materials.

One of the solutions for this is materials research, which examines how existing fuel cell component materials function and degrade at different temperature and humidity levels and at higher cell voltages. The development is investigating how the integration of new materials can cope with these challenges.

The M2FCT consortium unites various specialist areas with regard to the efficiency and longevity of fuel cells and harmonizes activities with industrial developers. While the initial focus of this study is on meeting the goals for long-haul hydrogen-powered tractor units, M2FCT researchers are also optimistic about the possible adoption of hydrogen fuel cells in other, more demanding, high-performance applications, including trains. maritime and even aviation.

The energy, energy and lifespan requirements of these applications make fuel cells a very compelling way to decarbonise them, provided they use renewable green hydrogen and should increase the use and use of hydrogen in multiple sectors.

—Berkeley Lab scientist and M2FCT co-director Adam Weber

This study was supported by the DOE Office of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies through the Consortia of Fuel Cell Performance and Persistence (FC-PAD) and Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck (M2FCT).


  • DA Cullen, KC Neyerlin, RK Ahluwalia et al. (2021) “New roads and challenges for fuel cells in heavy haulage.” Nat Energy. doi: 10.1038 / s41560-021-00775-z