Semi-Truck Makers Want to Use Hydrogen Fuel Cells to Power Transport: Is It Safe?
For as long as anyone can remember, the world of sustainable transport has been dominated by one specific technology: Electric batteries. EVs have taken over roads across California, and some say that it is only a matter of time before gasoline-powered vehicles are phased out entirely. But an electric battery is not the only type of technology that can sustainably power a vehicle. Although hydrogen fuel cells were once considered a pipe dream, new advances in this technology make it a viable competitor to electric batteries. Some trucking companies even claim that it could be much more effective for larger, heavier vehicles like semi-trucks.
Considering the shocking number of semi-truck accidents in California over the past few years, the real question is simple: Is this technology safe? We know that gasoline is combustible, and fiery semi-truck crashes can easily claim lives. As you may know, hydrogen has its own safety concerns. Could this really be a viable replacement for gasoline-powered semi-trucks, or might it lead to even more accidents and disasters in the following years? What can you do if you have been injured by a vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, and how can you gain compensation for your injuries after a California semi-truck accident?
The Possibility of Using Hydrogen Cells Was Once Laughable – Now It Is Inevitable
It was not all that long ago that Elon Musk was calling hydrogen fuel cells “stupid.” Many industry insiders felt the same way about the viability of the technology, preferring to focus more on electric batteries. There were vocal pessimists in the trucking industry as well. Last year, a German independent research institute claimed that hydrogen was not going to play a role in the trucking industry and that that niche would instead be filled by electric batteries. They also claimed that the trucking industry could not wait for hydrogen technology to “catch up” and that the “window of opportunity” for hydrogen was closed.
The reason was simple: Long-distance travel. The one single advantage hydrogen seemed to have over electric batteries was increased range. However, this changed with improvements to EV technology that both improved range and decreased charging time.
Volvo Announces Heavy Investment in Hydrogen
But there is at least one semi-truck manufacturer that believes in Hydrogen. In late 2022, Volvo announced that its hydrogen-powered semi-trucks were capable of ranges exceeding 1,000 kilometers with batteries weighing less than two tons. In contrast, semi-trucks powered by electric batteries only get about 250 kilometers between charges with current technology. In addition, these batteries are much heavier – taking up valuable cargo space that could be filled by transport goods. As a result, electric vehicles seem to transport less cargo by default with shorter ranges.
Other hydrogen vehicle manufacturers point out that electric vehicles lose efficiency in cold weather, while hydrogen is virtually unaffected by weather changes. Other supporters of hydrogen fuel cells point out that refueling one of these vehicles takes about 20 minutes – about the same time as an average gas-powered semi-truck. A semi-truck powered by electric batteries could take hours to fully recharge. That being said, one of the fueling limitations is the fact that there are few hydrogen stations right now – something that needs to be addressed before hydrogen-powered semi-trucks can be taken seriously.
It is also worth noting that passenger vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are already available to the public in California. The only brands that sell these vehicles are Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota – although more will likely follow in the coming years. There are even concept cars that offer hybrid hydrogen/EV combinations – potentially giving consumers both options in one vehicle.
Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells Safe?
The real question is whether these vehicles are actually safe. Hydrogen fuel is highly flammable, creating an almost invisible blue flame with no smoke when ignited. Hydrogen is also odorless, which could make it difficult to detect something like a leak. In contrast, the smell of gasoline is quite strong and can alert motorists to potential danger. That being said, hydrogen fuel is also 22 times less explosive than gasoline fuel when compared on a volume-by-volume basis. In addition, the fumes from hydrogen fuel flames are non-toxic and generate relatively low amounts of heat. The same cannot be said for both gasoline fires and fires caused by electric batteries. The greatest danger seems to be a slow leak in an enclosed home garage – but this issue does not apply to the trucking industry.
Hydrogen fuel cell enthusiasts are quick to latch onto these statistics, claiming that hydrogen’s seemingly safe properties are yet another reason to ditch electric batteries. It is true that some of the worst truck accidents are caused by igniting fuel tanks – as semi-truck carry more fuel in their tanks than passenger vehicles, and as a result cause larger explosions. But it is too early to tell what kind of safety issues we might face with hydrogen, as the technology has yet to be used on a wide scale.
Where Can I Find a Semi-Truck Accident Attorney in California?
If you have been searching the California area for a qualified, experienced semi-truck accident attorney, look no further than Mary Alexander & Associates. Over the years, we have helped numerous injured plaintiffs, including those injured by semi-trucks. We know that there are many issues in the trucking industry that put innocent people at risk, and you deserve the right to hold negligent parties accountable for your injuries.
The possibility of using hydrogen fuel cells is only the latest chapter in a long line of safety-related trucking issues. We will have to wait many years before we discover the true hazards of this technology – and by then, it might be too late. The truth is that there are people right now struggling with injuries caused by truck crashes. If you are one of these people, book your consultation with us as soon as possible to strive for justice and fair compensation.