GM partnering with Navistar on hydrogen fuel cell semi trucks

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. is partnering with Navistar Inc. to provide hydrogen fuel cells for a fleet of Navistar's semi trucks, a move to further strengthen GM's position in fuel cell development. 

A fleet of Navistar fuel-cell powered vehicles will have two GM Hydrotec fuel cell power cubes that each contain 300-plus hydrogen fuel cells as well as thermal and power management systems. J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. will pilot the trucks on dedicated routes in 2022. They are expected to be commercially available in 2024. To supply the hydrogen powering the fuel cells, Navistar is partnering with supplier One H2 Inc. 

General Motors Co. is providing Navistar Inc., a truck manufacturer with hydrogen fuel cells for a fleet of trucks. Navistar is also partnering with OneH2 Inc. to supply the hydrogen for these trucks and J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. will be the first to test them.

Navistar claims the truck will get a target range of at least 500 miles and has a hydrogen fueling time of less than 15 minutes. The company collaboration is seen as a way to help make fuel-cell semis a reality faster.

"There is a commitment here that all parties will play a strong role in developing the ecosystem solution," Navistar CEO Persio Lisboa said on a call with media. "This is the beginning of something and we believe that many other customers will be able to join as we move along with the technology and the solution."

Lisboa said Navistar came to GM after "extensive research" for a fuel cell partner. GM's 50 years in hydrogen fuel cell development, 3.2 million miles powered by hydrogen and its commitment to a zero-emissions future led Navistar to selecte the Detroit automaker, he said. 

Lisboa declined to disclose the financial relationship with GM, referring to it as "really a technology development partnership." He also wouldn't disclose how many orders the company has received for the trucks. 

Navistar is partnering and taking a minority stake in OneH2, the company that will supply hydrogen production, storage, delivery and safety. OneH2 with its affiliates plans to have a substantial hydrogen heavy truck refueling infrastructure by eventually incorporating more than 2,000 of the new Navistar trucks into its existing truck fleet. 

OneH2 uses production hubs to make hydrogen fuel that is transported by trailer to fueling sites located at industrial centers.

"As you're seeing everywhere in the world, the infrastructure for hydrogen is one of the most challenging goals that I think companies may have," Lisboa said. "Once you have the infrastructure, then you're enabling the technology."

Last year, GM signed a memorandum of understanding with startup Nikola Corp. to provide its Hydrotec fuel cell system for Nikola’s future semi-trucks. The deal was scaled down from a previously agreed partnership after Nikola was accused of making fraudulent claims about its technology and capabilities, causing its stock to plummet. Nikola and GM are still in negotiations.

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