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Battery technology storms fuel-cell redoubt: haul trucks

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(Kitco News) - Advances in technology are making heavy trucks powered by batteries more and more feasible, according to a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute published Thursday.

The authors of the study said that advances in batteries are knocking down the barriers to adoption in heavy vehicles, such as recharging times, high battery costs, and the low gravimetric specific energy of batteries.

Fuel-cell technology is thought to be a better fit for heavy vehicles due to weight improvements and fast charging. It's a technology that currently matches what trucks predominantly use now: the internal combustion engine. In 2019, Anglo American announced it was developing a 300-tonne haul truck that will be converted to run on hydrogen. The South African miner also has a stake in seeing hydrogen fuel-cell technology find its footing since the engines, like internal combustion engines, require a catalyst made from a platinum group metal to operate.

The authors write that fast-charging is coming for batteries, as well as other technological improvements.

"[Truck] are sensitive to technology improvements; since battery technology is improving quickly, the assumptions about battery cost and lifetime on which previous findings were based are changing, meaning that the feasibility of heavy battery electric trucks is also changing fast," writes the authors.

"With shorter range and more frequent charging, savings from electrification scale faster than the costs of electrification and the negative impact on load capacity do. Focusing analysis on economic competitiveness instead of technical parity indicates that current battery technology is close to a threshold where electric trucks become feasible. Future research and policymaking on how to reduce carbon emission from trucks need to consider battery electric options closer."

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