Coming soon to Norway! This truck, manufactured by the German company MAN, runs on green hydrogen and can make the journey from Trondheim to Oslo on one tank of fuel. Photo courtesy of the MAN press archive.

An essential watershed in emission-free freight transport in Norway

As early as next year, a hundred new hydrogen trucks will be rolling Norwegian roads – with zero emissions and a range of 500 kilometres. And that’s not all! It takes less than fifteen minutes to fill their tanks.

“Things are moving at last – and at a scale unheard of before”, says Steffen Møller-Holst, who is Vice President for Marketing at SINTEF, having researched into the uses of hydrogen for many years. 

Møller-Holst believes that the hundred new hydrogen trucks arriving next year on Norwegian roads will signal a watershed in efforts to make road freight transport emission-free.   

 “This initiative is essential if we are to achieve our  emission reduction targets here in Norway”, he says.  

An essential watershed 

The benefits of hydrogen have been under discussion for many years, not least as a fuel for passenger cars, trucks and boats. Hydrogen is also on the agenda as a key component in the campaign for emission-free aviation.  

In Norway in the period 2006 to 2015, five or six hydrogen filling stations were built for passenger cars, and one for buses. However, vehicle sales were slow due to the limited number of suitable Mercedes, Toyota and Hyundai models available. And then came the fire at a hydrogen filling station in Bærum in 2019. This accident caused many of the existing stations to be closed down.   

However, in 2020, Norway’s biggest food wholesalers ASKO, based at Tiller in Trondheim, became one of the first haulage companies in the world to purchase as many as four hydrogen trucks from Swedish manufacturer Scania. The hydrogen was produced using electricity generated by solar panels installed on the roof of the company’s warehouse complex.  (This article continues below the photo).

This goods truck is running on hydrogen produced using electricity generated by solar panels installed on the roof of ASKO’s warehouse complex. The system has been developed in collaboration with SINTEF. Photo: SINTEF/Steffen Møller-Holst

Now comes the turn of the German manufacturer MAN, which will be delivering the one hundred new hydrogen freight trucks soon to be seen on Norwegian roads. This is just half of a total of 200 vehicles that the company is planning to deliver as part of its first global launch.  

Since the hydrogen is produced from renewable sources, CO2 emissions are less than one gramme per kilometre, enabling these trucks to be classified as emission-free vehicles. 

Norway’s pioneering role and ‘Mr. Hydrogen’ 

Norway has been producing hydrogen at major industrial scales for almost a century. And for the last thirty years, Steffen Møller-Holst has been one of the people at the forefront of the campaign to promote the use of the gas.

Steffen Møller-Holst at SINTEF.

Møller-Holst tells Gemini that SINTEF has been conducting research into the use of hydrogen in fuel cells since the late 1980s. In the last fifteen years alone, SINTEF has either coordinated or participated as a partner in a total of 38 EU-funded hydrogen-related projects. Emission-free transport based on hydrogen has been, and continues to be, a key area of focus among SINTEF’s research activities.  

When, next year, MAN delivers its global pilot series of 200 hydrogen vehicles, with half of them in Norway, much of the credit must go the long-term efforts invested in a project called H2Truck. The project is being headed by Evig Grønn, a company based in Sandefjord, which works to facilitate various companies’ opportunities to implement the green transition.   

 “Exactly where will these hydrogen trucks be rolling? 

 “MAN Norge says that they’ll be serving the freight transport corridors between Oslo and Stavanger, Oslo and Trondheim and Oslo and Ålesund”, says Møller-Holst. “Naturally, it’s vital that they travel through areas where there is actually fuel available”, he says. 

 “Isn’t this a bit of a chicken and egg situation? 

 “Yes, absolutely”, he replies. 

 Møller-Holst is clear that the hydrogen truck project demands commitment. 

 “With as many as a hundred trucks on the road, we need to build sufficient filling stations to keep pace with the vehicles”, he says. 

 “The company Vireon is planning to build seven such filling stations for heavy transport vehicles”, he continues. “These will be located between Stavanger and Oslo, as well as on routes between Oslo, Trondheim and Ålesund. Currently, ASKO’s station in Trondheim is the only one in Norway adapted for freight trucks, and is the most northerly in the world. 

Batteries and hydrogen will complement each other 

Currently, road traffic alone accounts for about a fifth of Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions, and heavy transport is responsible for more emissions than all the passenger cars in the country.  

 “It’s not about outcompeting our excellent battery-driven haulage trucks, but more to do with offering the freight companies access to a viable, emission-free option in situations where such vehicles are disproportionately heavy and expensive to use”, says Møller-Holst.  

The solution a given company selects must be suited to its needs. In this way, batteries and hydrogen will complement each other.  

 “The hydrogen trucks manufactured by MAN have a range of about 500 kilometres”, says Møller Holst. “A hydrogen truck weights about the same as a diesel vehicle. In contrast, an electric truck designed for a range of 500 kilometres is four to five tonnes heavier than a hydrogen truck, placing unnecessary strain on its load capacity”, he says.  

According to Møller-Holst, the company Daimler Truck manufactures hydrogen vehicles that can travel for more than 1,000 kilometres on a single tank. The ability to fill the trucks’ tanks in fifteen minutes offers the haulage companies greater flexibility.  

 “Those companies looking to transport heavy loads over long distances will probably prefer the hydrogen option once the vehicles and fuel are easily available”, says Møller-Holst. “There’s no doubt that this will help to give us a better opportunity to achieve our ambitious emission reduction targets in the heavy transport sector”, he says.