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Volvo Construction Equipment Fuel Test Lab – Advancing Research and Development

Volvo Construction Equipment Fuel Test Lab – Advancing Research and Development

In interview with Energy Capital, the Fuel Cell Test Lab Team, part of the larger Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) Team, talks with us about this innovative hydrogen fuel-cell laboratory located in Eskilstuna, Sweden.

volvo construction equipment (volvo ce)

Launched in May 2021, this facility is expected to help the company reach its commitment to the Science-Based Targets initiative.

Moreover, this dedicated lab is also the first facility in Volvo Group to be testing complete fuel cell units, and will as such be a strong contributor to the company’s dedication to fuel cell technology.

EC – Will Volvo CE connect the Fuel Cell Test Lab to the company’s production processes?

Volvo CE – Our primary focus for the Fuel Cell Test lab is for research and development, so there are no current plans to connect it to our production processes. At this stage our ambition is to understand how to design a fuel cell system in an optimal way dependent on various use applications, considering component characteristics and relevant duty cycles.

EC – How will the cell lab evaluate test fuel cell solutions to further expand its applications for heavy construction equipment and others?

Volvo CE – The work we carry out inside the fuel cell test lab is a variety of simulations that test the way a complete fuel cell system operates under any given circumstance. Through these simulations, we optimize the system for any given duty cycle and application, which will in turn allow us to understand the best possible usage of fuel cell solutions in relevant construction machines.

EC – What will its research mean in terms of cleaner hydrogen production, distribution, and affordability?

Volvo CE – At this stage, there is no direct connection between this test lab and the eventual production, distribution and cost of hydrogen. There will be an indirect connection of course as a broader usage of fuel cell technology will drive both production, distribution and cost.

EC – Could you tell us about the new Volvo CE’s Fuel Cell Lab?

Volvo CE – The fuel cell test lab is located at the Volvo CE Technical Center in Eskilstuna, Sweden and represents a big step forward in the company’s commitment to hydrogen. The lab is also the first facility in Volvo Group to be testing complete fuel cell units, and will as such be a strong contributor to the company’s dedication to fuel cell technology and serve Volvo Group globally. The lab, run by dedicated technicians, offers us the perfect conditions in which to explore the potential for hydrogen fuel cell technology in our heavier construction equipment.

EC – Are there any other initiatives that Volvo is undertaking towards promoting hydrogen use in the transportation and heavy construction sector? Could you tell us about them? (for instance, CELLCENTRIC, a joint venture by Volvo Group and Daimler Truck).

Volvo CE – CELLCENTRIC is a new joint venture between Volvo Group and Daimler Trucks to accelerate the development, production and commercialization of fuel cell systems for use in long-haul trucking and other applications, such as construction equipment. As a 50-50 partnership, both manufacturers own equal interests but will continue to be competitors in areas such as vehicle technology and fuel cell integration in products. Because Volvo Group is a family, we are lucky to benefit from and share knowledge and expertise across the Group.

Volvo Group has also recently announced a partnership with steel manufacturer Ovako to use its surplus hydrogen produced during their manufacturing processes to be repurposed as a clean energy source for the Group’s hydrogen fuel cell solutions when commercially available.

EC – Why did Volvo consider it important to commit to the Science Based Targets Initiative? What does this commitment mean in terms of net-zero emissions goals for the company?

Volvo CE – The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is one of the biggest undertakings for us as a company as it requires all of us to work together in partnership. This is a truly holistic, cross- functional commitment where we will see every area of our business working collectively to achieve these goals. But we also see it as just one of the many tools we have to hand to help us reduce our carbon impact.

We are making this commitment now because we believe the time is for action, not words – and the roadmap needs to be put in place today to reduce our carbon impact for tomorrow.

Volvo CE, as part of Volvo Group, has committed to achieving net-zero value chain greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 at the latest – 10 years earlier than the SBTi commitment. This is because Volvo products have an average lifetime of 10 years in the customer use-phase, so for the entire rolling fleet to have net-zero emissions by 2050, it is necessary that all products delivered after 2040 have net-zero emissions.

Volvo CE has also set its own target, separate from other business areas within Volvo Group to limit global warming for the use of its products, whose direct emissions account for the highest proportion of the company’s carbon emissions, to well below 20C above pre-industrial levels – in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary as part of the Paris Agreement. A separate ambition to limit global warming to 1.50C has been set for its operations, facilities and manufacturing processes.

EC – Besides hydrogen fuel cell development, what is Volvo doing to advance electromobility solutions further?

Volvo CE – Hydrogen fuel cell development is one key part of our electromobility strategy – running parallel to our ongoing development of battery electric solutions and more sustainable internal combustion engines. We believe we need all three if we are to achieve net zero value chain greenhouse gas emissions across the varied needs and applications of our construction machines, as we cannot take a one size fits all approach.

We have not only brought to market electric solutions in our compact range – the L25 Electric compact loader and ECR25 Electric compact excavator – but are also testing a mid-size battery electric construction machine, the EC230 Electric, with our customers for eventual commercialization.

The larger end of the scale, within our heavier construction equipment, is where we see hydrogen fuel cell technology put to best use. In addition, we have also expanded our unique hybrid technology across a range of different construction machines, helping to boost fuel efficiency by 17%, and developed grid-connected electric excavator prototypes which operate the same as a conventional Volvo machine but which emit no carbon when plugged into the grid.

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