Battery Vs. Hydrogen: There’s Room For Both Technologies

Last week Anheuser-Busch brewery made its first zero-emissions delivery of beer, and both hydrogen-powered and battery-powered trucks were involved to demonstrate how the two technologies can work together. The beverage company used a hydrogen-electric truck to pick up a load of beer from its distillery and deliver it to local wholesaler partner. The wholesaler partner in turn used a battery-electric powered truck to make the delivery to customers, marking the first zero-emissions delivery.

There is a something of a mild war between Tesla and the rest of the world when it comes to the debate on the future of vehicle propulsion technology. Although there are multiple power sources available on the market today–including natural gas, diesel, hydrogen, and petroleum gasoline–some automotive industry leaders feel that there should only be one: battery-electric.

Most large and intermediate-sized automotive manufacturers disagree with this narrow position, and are exploring multiple alternative-fuel systems, including fuel-cell technology.

Hydrogen is more efficient for powering large vehicles, such as full-size SUVs and trucks, for long distances while carrying heavy payloads. Batteries are large, heavy, and expensive, and quickly reach a point of diminishing returns as vehicle size and weight increases, which is why many transportation giants are placing heavy bets on hydrogen technology and start-ups.

Last year Anheuser-Busch placed an order for up to 800 hydrogen-electric powered semi-trucks from the Phoenix, Arizona-based Nikola Motor Company to make good on its plan to reduce its carbon emissions across their supply chain by 25% by 2025. These trucks can travel between 500 and 1,200 miles before a 20-minute refueling is required. But even when all of the 800 long-haul hydrogen-powered trucks are on the road, the new fleet will reduce the brewer’s logistics-related carbon footprint by only 18%.

Additional reductions will be found in part by working with battery-electric vehicle manufacturers. The beer producer will be deploying 21 electric battery-electric trucks powered by a 958.5 kW solar array in efforts to reduce emissions generated by its distribution centers in southern California.

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