UK Push for First Autonomous Hydrogen Powered Truck

Hydrogen power for commercial vehicles received a boost in the UK with a government grant hoping to see the launch of the world’s first fuel cell autonomous heavy goods vehicle (HGV).

British company Hydrogen Vehicle Systems (HVS) announced that the consortium it leads, Hub2Hub, has been awarded £6.6M ($8.13M) to develop and deliver the vehicle. The Hub2Hub consortium will create a self-driving heavy goods tractor unit, which will begin vehicles trials in 2024 with major UK retailer ASDA. It’s hoped that the cost savings an autonomous lorry could provide will speed up the adoption of zero-emissions vehicles by the freight sector, reducing the industry’s contribution to climate change.

HVS, which laid out its plans to disrupt the haulage industry by revealing its hydrogen- electric powertrain technology demonstrator in November 2022, will receive £3.4M as one of seven grants being announced today from the CCAV and Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) program.

The consortium, HVS, Fusion Processing and Asda, will build two prototype vehicles that claims to allow Level 4 autonomous driving. Its first prototype will be fitted with a driver’s cab and tested on the road in autonomous operation, using the Fusion Processing’s Automated Drive System, CAVStar, with a human safety driver at the wheel.

The second prototype will have the driver’s cab removed and replaced by an aerodynamic fairing.  During the project this vehicle will be evaluated on test tracks, with the CAVStar system in this application allowing a remote human driver, located in a control hub, to operate the vehicle. Together these two prototypes point to a future logistics system where vehicles could be operated in autonomous mode on a hub-to-hub route, with a remote driver then taking control to drive the vehicle from the hub to its end destination.

HVS CEO Jawad Khursheed said: “A transport revolution is taking place in the UK and HVS, together with the consortium, is at the forefront of the innovation. We are engineering the world’s first autonomous hydrogen-electric powered HGV to demonstrate hub-to-hub logistics to a leading retailer, ASDA, to elevate public perception, showcasing the potential autonomy can deliver thanks to increased safety and fuel savings, and develop new business models.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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