Calgary

Zero-emission transport trucks set to hit Alberta roads

A new type of heavy transport truck will soon be on the road in Alberta and its drivers won't be fuelling up at gas stations.

Industry-led project will test 2 heavy-duty hydrogen-power freight vehicles

A new type of transport truck will produce zero emissions. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A new type of heavy transport truck will soon be on the road in Alberta and its drivers won't be fuelling up at gas stations.

The truck will run on electricity powered by hydrogen — and produce zero emissions.

Transport trucks are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, which are scientifically linked to contributing to climate change. So researchers and industry want to know if electric power can move the heavy vehicles — and how much.

So they're running a pilot project, led by the Alberta Motor Transport Association, to see if the power from hydrogen fuel will be enough. It will be a first for Canada.

"We're really testing the ability of this new innovative technology to actually meet the needs of the trucking sector," said David Layzell, director of the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research Initiative (CESAR). 

The project will develop two heavy-duty, 64-tonne hybrid trucks with hydrogen fuel cells. Over three years, they'll move freight year-round between Edmonton and Calgary.

The $15-million project is scheduled to run until 2022.

Although the trucks don't produce emissions themselves, their overall cleanliness depends on how the hydrogren is produced.

The cheapest way to get hydrogen currently is by converting it from natural gas, a technique that does produce emissions. That's what these trucks will use for the pilot product.

However, Layzell said the trucks will be producing fewer emissions than if they were powered by diesel.

Freight transport contributes nearly 70 per cent of diesel fuel use in Alberta, his organization estimates. That contributes, it says, roughly 12 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

In the future, the hope is that the cost of producing hydrogen from renewable sources will likely come down, said Pembina Institute clean energy analyst Vincent Morales.

"Investing in hydrogen trucks with fossil fuels now still brings important benefits," he said.

The pilot, he said, is a big step forward to cut emissions on the road.

With files from Audrey Neveu and Reid Southwick

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