WardsAuto Podcast: Hydrogen and FirstElement Refueling FCEV Trucks

As the heavy truck industry pivots to a hydrogen fuel cell future, First Element Fuel pivots from just refueling FCEV cars to 18-wheelers and more.

David Kiley, Senior Editor

May 3, 2024

30 Min Listen

In a little more than a decade, you won’t be able to register a brand-new diesel truck in California. At the federal level, there are new rules in place that will pretty much phase diesel out nationally by 2040.

That means that over time, those sooty diesel spews we see on the highways coming out of big rigs’ vertical exhaust pipes will be a thing of the past. Yes, there are lawsuits trying to delay the inevitable. But overall, diesel is doomed.

That means replacing diesel engines with either batteries or hydrogen fuel-cell stacks. And while hydrogen has been viewed as uneconomical for widespread adoption to this point, the U.S. government and EU are investing tens of billions, in addition to private investments, in building out a hydrogen economy.

The first big shift is with heavy trucks, both in the U.S. and Europe.

Why? Because the trucking industry is heavily regulated already, and it’s relatively simple to force a scaling up of hydrogen fuel cells and battery-electric trucks on corporate America and the companies engaged in moving goods around from ports to distribution centers to end users.

In a few minutes we will hear from Shane Stephens, co-founder of First Element Fuel, which has been running a network of hydrogen fueling stations in California mostly for passenger cars under the TrueZero brand for more than a decade. It just opened its first heavy truck refueling station in Oakland, CA, at the Port of Oakland. This is the first of some 60 stations planned for California by the state.

In a little more than a decade, California will prohibit the sale of diesel trucks. The diesels now on the road will still be allowed to run after 2036, but there will be no newly purchased diesel truck registrations.

The trucking industry, of course, is embracing this change. Just kidding. The lawsuits are flying. The feds too, have new standards.

Heavy-duty trucks have an outsize environmental footprint; larger industrial vehicles make up about 5% of the country's vehicle fleet, but 20% of transportation emissions.

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About the Author(s)

David Kiley

Senior Editor, WardsAuto

David Kiley is an award winning journalist. Prior to joining WardsAuto, Kiley held senior editorial posts at USA Today, Businessweek, AOL Autos/Autoblog and Adweek, as well as being a contributor to Forbes, Fortune, Popular Mechanics and more.

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