Meet The UPS Class 6 Fuel Cell Truck With A 45-kWh Battery

4 months ago by Mark Kane 48

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Chassis

UPS has announced the upcoming deployment of a special Class 6 medium-duty delivery truck prototype, that will be tested in Sacramento, California.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Prototype

The vehicle is equipped with a 45 kWh battery and also a 32 kW fuel cell range extender (plus 10 kg of hydrogen).

It’s one of those rare occasions when we see FCV technology coupled with a battery of that size.

Extended range of the truck is said to be about 125 miles.

Besides the battery-fuel cell combination, what is also interesting is the electric motor – switch reluctance type, supplied by Nidec.

“UPS is working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other partners to design a first-of-its-kind, zero tailpipe emissions, Class 6 medium-duty delivery truck that meets the same route and range requirements of UPS’s existing conventional fuel vehicles.

Unlike fuel cell auxiliary power units, this vehicle will use the onboard fuel cell to generate electricity to propel the vehicle. This project is an important step toward demonstrating the commercial viability of zero tailpipe emissions trucks to fleet operators and the developing FCEV supply chain.

The first FCEV prototype will be deployed in Sacramento, Calif., where UPS will validate its design and core performance requirements by testing it on the street starting the third quarter of 2017. Current project plans call for additional UPS trucks to be validated with at least 5,000 hours of in-service operational performance. All of the trucks will be deployed in California due to that state’s ongoing investment in zero tailpipe emissions transportation and installment of hydrogen fueling stations around the state.”

Fuel Cell

“Each FCEV produces electricity which continuously charges the batteries, thereby providing additional power and an extended range of 125 miles. The UPS trucks are equipped with a 32kW fuel cell coupled to 45kWh of battery storage and 10kg of hydrogen fuel. The drive train runs on electricity supplied by batteries. Unlike other fuel cell applications, this will support the full duty cycle of the truck, including highway driving.

The project is part of a fuel cell project grant awarded by DOE in 2013 focused on verifying the proof of concept in commercial delivery vehicles. UPS is committed to evaluating these technologies that support the nation’s energy security, fuel diversity, and economic growth priorities. The project calls for retrofitting conventional fuel trucks with fuel cell electric systems designed specifically for use in a delivery truck duty cycle. UPS is partnering with the Center for Transportation and the Environment as well as Unique Electric Solutions LLC and the University of Texas’ Center for Electromechanics.

UPS has invested more than $750 million in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and fueling stations globally since 2009. UPS has deployed more than 8,300 vehicles using its Rolling Laboratory approach to determine what works best in each situation. From old-fashioned pedal power and electric-assisted bicycles in dense urban areas to electric, hybrid electric, natural gas, renewable natural gas, propane and renewable diesel fueled vehicles, UPS puts sustainability innovation into action all over the world.”

Nidec switch reluctance motor

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Prototype

Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president global engineering and sustainability said:

“The challenge we face with fuel cell technology is to ensure the design can meet the unique operational demands of our delivery vehicles on a commercial scale.

This project is an essential step to test the zero tailpipe emissions technology and vehicle on the road for UPS and the transportation industry. We have a long history of developing and promoting the use of more sustainable alternative fuels with our Rolling Laboratory, and hope that by bringing our unique expertise to the development of hydrogen fuels, we can help advance the technology.”

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48 responses to "Meet The UPS Class 6 Fuel Cell Truck With A 45-kWh Battery"

  1. Assaf says:

    Nice!

    IMHO heavy-duty PHEV is the best future niche for fuel-cell technology. Charge the battery overnight easily; have extra/back-up power/range via a fuel cell.

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      But FC cost too much and tank isn’t that cheap or small.

      At that point, it is just better to use a small clean diesel that runs on bio diesel instead of the expensive FC REx.

      The infrastructure will also be cheaper where bio diesel can be sold thru existing stations where hydrogen stations have to be built from scratch.

      If majority of the fuels are displaced with electricity, then the remaining demand can easily be satisfied with renewable bio diesel.

      1. buu says:

        there is no such thing as clean diesel, CNG would be most clean fossil version

        1. Prad Bitt says:

          …or the least dirty…

        2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          But we can make synthetic methane, which would be fully renewable (see link below), no more polluting than CNG (natural gas is mostly methane), and unlike compressed hydrogen, it’s actually a practical fuel. It could even be used to power a fuel cell vehicle if an onboard reformer was added.

          Continuing to waste money on “experimental” hydrogen powered vehicles is stupid and wasteful. It has been obvious for many years now that this is a failed experiment.

          Time to put an end to the “hydrogen economy” hoax.

          https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140106094557.htm

      2. ClarksonCote says:

        UPS also has a lot of Workhorse prototypes that have a similarly sized battery and the same range extending engine that’s in the i3. InsideEVs has actually has articles on those as well.

        It’s not clear to me which is better. I’d lean towards the engine but only based on opinion.

        1. ClarksonCote says:

          Edit: Here’s the link from 2016, where UPS deployed over 100 of the PHEV variant with i3 range extender… http://insideevs.com/ups-updates-125-step-vans-to-workhorse-e-gen-series-plug-in-hybrids/

      3. menorman says:

        Yes, I think Wrightspeed is a better option except in situations where zero tailpipe emissions are desired.

      4. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

        This is a trial vehicle, which means they’re thinking about the future. They get to run on the plug but also try out the HFC and probably do it all using a grant.

        Little point in trialling a diesel engine.

      5. zzzzzzzzzz says:

        Fuel cells may cost more for a pilot project, but it is not done just as one-time toy, it is intended to validate mass deployment some time in the future.

        At mass production diesel engine with emission controls doesn’t cost less at than fuel cells, some $40/kW. Neither it is clean or silent, new-bio or fossil-bio. Local emissions is also major reason why it is pushed.

        H2 tank isn’t major expense either, some 10-20/kWh.

        1. Mint says:

          When fuel cells cost $300/kW or less, they’ll be in far greater demand for peaker plants than transport applications.

          $40/kW is a long way away from that. They’re nowhere near as cheap as DoE projections.

      6. Barry Annis says:

        Bio diesel is still not zero emission…Hydrgen fuel cell is the best…new technology will make it extremely cheap…and abundant..should replace all use of petroleum and nuclear power…too bad you have an anti christ anti climate president
        ..make america great again empeach trump..!!!! Dump trump make america great again..!!!

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          New technology will not magically change the laws of physics or thermodynamics, cannot reduce the number of energy-wasting steps necessary to get the hydrogen from the generation station into the vehicle’s fuel tank, cannot change the extreme unsuitability of the hydrogen molecule to being a practical everyday fuel, and will never make compressed hydrogen affordable.

          Unicorns and rainbows are not going to magically improve the hydrogen molecule, either.

  2. Mike I. says:

    UPS has spent a lot of money on various alternative fuel “rolling laboratory” projects, but has yet to do anything in volume. Have they not found anything affordable that is ready for prime time? What are they actually waiting for?

    My office has been served by a diesel-electric hybrid UPS truck. I talked to the driver about it and he said that he has to be very careful when pulling out into traffic because the truck can’t move without the diesel running. It takes almost 2 seconds for acceleration power to be available, so he has to plan ahead and leave room to inch ahead so the engine will begin starting in time to actually hit the break in traffic.

    1. realistic says:

      Did you see who the manufacturer was?
      Thanks

    2. DJ says:

      Don’t they have a ton of trucks that use hydraulic regeneration?

      That alone is a pretty big win if you ask me. Huge delivery companies want reliability and cost effectiveness, not unproven and costly tech which lets be honest EVs have been.

      1. Djoni says:

        You consider electric drive unproven?
        Big ship, train, and mining truck use electric drive before you were born.
        The first experimental electric drive train was in 1879 in Berlin.
        Electric train, even battery electric train was tested and used at the end of the 19 century.
        We had trolley bus in every major city at the beginning of the last century.
        Most of all big mining truck use electric propulsion.
        Most WWI an II submarine was moved by electric drive.
        Same goes to ship as early as 1929.
        Just add aircraft carrier to the party.
        What is unproven there?

        I would say that the frist mass produced FCEV have not yet been tested.
        Not close.

        1. Roy LeMeur says:

          All nuclear-powered naval vessels are electric motor driven at the screw.

          1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

            Fuel cell submarines like Type 214 use 2850 kW electric motor too for silent cruising 😉

          2. John says:

            All nuclear-powered naval vessels are electric motor driven at the screw?????

            Where did you read that? Only subs are electric at the screws. All surface Navy ships that are nuclear are driven by steam turbines to drive the screws. The reactors are simply used to boil water just like an old fashioned oil burning one. The only electricity that is generated by steam turbine generators are used to power the ship systems but again, the screws are driven by steam.

            Your welcome.

            1. Bill Howland says:

              You guys are arguing about a technology enhancement. Besides being both right; in the future Naval Ships will likely have an electric link since it is becoming the simpler way to do things, but the mechanical way to do things wasn’t so bad, either.

        2. DJ says:

          So ya EV delivery vehicles have been unproven. Thanks for proving my point.

    3. zzzzzzzzzz says:

      >Mike I.

      “We’ve purchased over 1,300 LNG tractors and have contributed to over 30 LNG and CNG fueling stations to support them, as well as invested in over 2,000 propane package cars. ”
      https://sustainability.ups.com/committed-to-more/fuels-and-fleets/

      I wouldn’t call it “yet to do anything in volume”, even if it is far from switching away from diesel 100%. But it is easier said than done when you need to pay bills from money you earn moving goods around.

    4. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Mike I. said:

      “UPS has spent a lot of money on various alternative fuel ‘rolling laboratory’ projects, but has yet to do anything in volume. Have they not found anything affordable that is ready for prime time? What are they actually waiting for?”

      Likewise FedEx and the Post Office; they have BEV and/or PHEV test vehicles working a few routes but have not moved to replace large parts of their fleets, or all of them.

      What they’re waiting for is for batteries to come down far enough in price and/or improve in longevity that it makes sense to invest in the higher cost of a BEV or PHEV delivery truck, one that is expected to last ~25 years. The lifespan of a working truck like this is expected to be longer than a passenger car and it’s in service many more hours per day. With current battery tech, that means replacing the battery pack probably 2 or 3 times over the lifetime of the vehicle, which means a cost/benefit analysis shows that batteries are still too expensive.

      Passenger cars are typically only used about 5-10% of the hours in a day, unless it’s a taxi. Working vehicles are going to wear out the battery pack much more quickly.

      * * * * *

      Mike I. also said:

      “My office has been served by a diesel-electric hybrid UPS truck… It takes almost 2 seconds for acceleration power to be available…”

      That reads like the truck hasn’t been designed properly. The battery pack, the inverter, and the electric motor(s) all need to have sufficient power to accelerate at normal speed, at least while the ICEngine (diesel motor) is assisting. Clearly something in this truck is inadequate.

      Or, it may be that the battery pack is worn out and needs replaced.

  3. georgeS says:

    Shoot. Half of their fleet should already be electric. Just more foot dragging IMO. Especially this little science experiment.

  4. Roy LeMeur says:

    The program is funded by a DOE grant.

    Guess who’s paying for this Fool Cell.

  5. Samwise says:

    Switch reluctance? sounds like a guy who is unsure if he should buy an Apple.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      Reluctance refers to the magnetic circuit of the synchronous motor. The same way as when one is talking about electrical things such as Ohm’s Law (Susceptance, Conductance, and Admitance) is not necessarily talking about something that is on the verge of, or mostly likely to happen.

  6. BenG says:

    It’s not a crazy design, but seems like you’d be better off using an SOFC fuel cell running on natural gas.

    Then you have cheaper more readily available fuel that doesn’t have to be compressed to 10,000 psi to get useful amounts onboard.

    In the future natural gas can also be created as bio-fuel or syn-fuel in addition to the abundant fossil fuel that is so widely available now.

    Or a small bio-diesel engine would give you a lot more bang for the buck. A 50 kw diesel engine running at optimal RPM, with state of the art pollution control would be plenty clean … a massive upgrade over whats on the road now.

    1. Terawatt says:

      Lol! So methane is abundantly available now? Really?

      You should show us some numbers. Like how many cars can actually use this as a source on the currently “abundant” methane gas.

      It is certainly true it would be a much more practical fuel than hydrogen to store and distribute in compressed form. And yes, like hydrogen it could be made renewable. But also like hydrogen, this is not energy efficient. Like hydrogen, you could power far more BEVs using your renewable electricity directly rather than go via a much less efficient storage medium. And like hydrogen it requires a separate energy supply infrastructure for cars instead of just using the grid, which obviously we’ll keep anyway.

      It doesn’t suck quite as much as hydrogen, but it’s definitely much worse than batteries.

      1. BenG says:

        There is natural gas infrastructure installed throughout much of the US and it’s fairly commonly used for buses. So it’s around and in use for vehicles not so terribly different than a UPS delivery truck.

        Yeah, maybe by the time this becomes feasible/practical then batteries will have become affordable and durable enough to do a UPS truck with 150 mile range and for the batteries to last 10 years under heavy use. It’s certainly more efficient, as you say, but there are some advantages to converting to chemical energy since bulk storage of grid-scale electricity by battery is a long, long way from being able to cope with multiple days of excess grid production … so far we’re talking about a an hour storage for a small power plants output at most.

        How long before we have a grid battery that can handle a gigawatt day of electricity, as might be produced by a big windfarm? Since natural gas is already so widely used it’s easy to see a market for syn-methane.

  7. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    What, do the laws of physics work differently for the Post Office? No? Well then, I guess this will never be more than just another overpriced science fair experiment, like all other fool cell vehicles.

    I really cannot fathom why they keep making experimental hydrogen powered cars and trucks. At some point — and we should be well past that point by now — it’s time to say “Okay, we’ve done enough experiments; clearly this will never be practical.”

    1. Four Electrics says:

      Just throw in the towel, like GM did with the EV1? I hope not. Humankind should never stop trying to improve the universe.

  8. Terawatt says:

    Extended range 125 miles?!? Someone must have made a mistake. A small truck like this should get much more than that from 465 kWh.

    (Hydrogen has an energy content of 42 kWh/kg.)

    1. Four Electrics says:

      UPS trucks have poor aerodynamics, are heavy, and stop and start all the time.

  9. Tom W says:

    As a Sacramento native, this is very nice news! I hope to see this truck; it’s probably part of the West Sac UPS fleet!

  10. Toni says:

    Combining a small battery and a small fuel cell actually makes sense. Both the battery and the fuel cell + H2 tank would be cheap and easy to fit inside a car. The battery would take care of the daily commute and when you do a longer trip it would not be an issue to stop every 150-200 miles and top up with H2 for a couple of minutes.
    A car with 100miles electric and 180 miles H2 range would require only a 25kwh battery and a 4 litre H2 Tank…

    1. Shawn Marshall says:

      How much would the FC weigh? Less than displaced battery capacity?

    2. Toni says:

      Little correction: The h2 tank would be 2.5 kg. No idea about the weight of the tank and H2 cell but it would be intresting to know….

  11. Shawn Marshall says:

    UPS -interesting experiment.

  12. SparkEV says:

    125 miles using 10 kg of H is equivalent to 12.5 MPG. While gas version MPG is unknown, it’s speculated between 10 and 13. It seems FC is no more efficient than gas hybrid, and begs the question, why FC when it’s no better than gasser?

    https://www.quora.com/How-many-miles-per-gallon-do-UPS-trucks-get

    1. Arthur says:

      Hi Sparkev ,

      I read your blog and have a question.
      What is a good charger for at home near Oakland?

      1. SparkEV says:

        I’m using Bosche unit that came free with SparkEV. But that’s only capable of 3.3 kW. Due to my home wiring situation, this is about the maximum power I’d be comfortable at home.

        Not sure what situation you’re facing, but I looked at Aerovironment Turbo cord some time ago that was able to use 120V and 240V, and portable.

        eMotorWerks sounds interesting, too. They have lots of customization via smartphone.

        There’s also some that allow the utility to control your charging, supposedly you get some discount on your electricity, though I don’t know much about it.

        It’s probably best to ask others as to what works, though without knowing your situation, perfect recommendation is impossible (eg. wiring limitation).

        1. Arthur says:

          Thanks spark,
          Yes. It is for my son.
          I also read here that you could get a 500$ refund from the electro company. He just asked for it.
          Will forward this to him.

    2. Dav8or says:

      Did you miss the part about zero emissions as a goal?

  13. Bill Howland says:

    That big yellow motor attached to the gear pump – anyone know what that is for? From the size it appears to be around 10 horsepower. Since its a gear pump it appears to be pumping liquid in the 100 psi range. Water cooling for the fuel cell?

  14. philip d says:

    Just put a 100-120 kWh battery in instead and be done with it.

    Routes and their distances are known so it can be charged once per day to run its route. A much more simple drivetrain with less parts that can fail.

    1. Four Electrics says:

      A 100 kWh battery wouldn’t have sufficient range.

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