Volvo CE opens hydrogen Fuel Cell Test Lab 

Toni Hagelberg, Head of Sustainable Power for Volvo CE, in the Fuel Cell Test Lab.

Volvo CE has opened a new research and development facility dedicated to the creation of hydrogen fuel cells.

The Fuel Cell Test Lab marks a significant advancement in the manufacturer’s ambition to be fossil-free by 2040. 

As part of Volvo Group’s commitment to the Science-Based Targets initiative – a necessary measure to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – and the company’s long-term ambition to be 100 per cent fossil-free by 2040, the Fuel Cell Test Lab will offer Volvo Group unique conditions to test and develop hydrogen fuel cell technology solutions in heavy construction machines and other applications. 

The dedicated lab, located at Volvo CE’s technical centre in Eskilstuna, Sweden, represents a 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 be a strong contributor to the company’s dedication to fuel cell technology. 

“Fuel cell technology is a key enabler of sustainable solutions for heavier construction machines, and this investment provides us with another vital tool in our work to reach Science-Based Targets,” said Toni Hagelberg, head of sustainable power at Volvo CE.

“The lab will also serve Volvo Group globally, as it’s the first to offer this kind of advanced testing. It’s a really exciting step to accelerate the development of fuel cell solutions towards our united vision for a carbon neutral society.” 

Volvo CE believes hydrogen fuel cell technology will play an important role within its overall electromobility goals. Combined with battery electric solutions and more sustainable internal combustion engines, all three segments will work in alignment on the journey towards a carbon neutral society.

While battery electric solutions are ideal for compact machines, the size of the batteries is simply too impractical for larger machines and heavy construction equipment, which is where hydrogen delivers a promising alternative. 

“Hydrogen can be produced in many different ways and it’s important to have a life-cycle approach across the entire value chain,” Hagelberg said.

“Not only will the research and development carried out at the test lab be dedicated to producing fossil-free construction solutions, we will also look at how the hydrogen itself has been produced, and strive for so called “green” hydrogen produced from renewable energy.” 

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Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen with oxygen, with the resulting chemical reaction producing electricity. The process is completely emission-free, with the only by-product being water vapor.

In principle, a fuel cell works like a battery, except that it generates its own electricity from on-board hydrogen, rather than being charged from an external source. This means it can deliver longer driving ranges, and is more feasible for long-haul transportation and heavier equipment. 

An added benefit of hydrogen fuel cell solutions, is that they will also be free from the traditional noise pollution. Without a combustion engine, hydrogen powered machines will be comparable to the low noise levels of the electric compact machines.