Going the distance with CRYOGAS – In discussion with two leaders of the German CryoTRUCK project

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German hydrogen mobility start-up Cryomotive has teamed up with MAN Truck & Bus and truck and bus refurbisher Clean Logistics SE to create the CryoTRUCK consortium. The project will develop and test CRYOGAS hydrogen storage and refueling technology for long-haul fuel cell trucks.

The objective is to achieve a range of 1,000 km per tank and a refueling time of approximately 10 minutes.

Auto Futures recently met with Cryomotive CEO Dr. Tobias Brunner and Clean Logistics CEO Dirk Graszt to discuss the goals of the project.

But before that, here’s the science behind the technology. CRYOGAS is an extremely cold hydrogen gas. It is stored at temperatures between -240°C and -100°C. It exceeds the density of liquid hydrogen by up to 20%, so it offers greater range and faster refueling.

The thermal stability of CRYOGAS makes it possible to store 80 kg of hydrogen in two tanks along the chassis of a truck. A third container can be placed behind the truck cabin to store more than 110 kg of hydrogen on board and allow even greater autonomy.

Cryomotive’s goals are to decarbonize long-haul utility vehicles while maintaining similar range and refueling times as diesel vehicles, and to achieve ownership cost parity before 2030.

“I’ve been a hydrogen guy for 20 years. I made a career at BMW and learned a lot about on-board hydrogen storage in passenger cars. So we did liquid hydrogen storage and high pressure gaseous storage… and both technologies seemed to have some shortcomings,” says Brunner.

“I was actually thinking of a way to combine the advantages of gaseous and liquid hydrogen, the very high density on the liquid side and the lower pressure and better handling on the gas side. And I came to the conclusion that a cryogenic gas is the best way to go. The opportunity is that we get rid of all thermal issues such as boiling, and we keep this very high density.

“We can actually use gas infrastructure as well as liquid infrastructure in the future. So we can cool gas to very high density, and we can cryo-compress liquid hydrogen. So whatever happens on the infrastructure side, we will be able to deliver high-density, fast-filling hydrogen in the future,” adds Brunner.

Lasting three and a half years, the CryoTRUCK project, with a total budget of more than 25 million euros, will focus on the development of a first generation of a storage and refueling system for CRYOGAS for fuel cell trucks.

The consortium received a letter of intent from the German Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) to fund the project.

The origins of the project

Clean Logistics SE converts diesel-powered semi-trailer trucks and passenger buses into zero-emission hydrogen vehicles.

“It’s our passion to bring some kind of revolution in the heavy truck industry and in the commercial vehicle industry,” Graszt told Auto Futures.

As part of the CryoTRUCK project, Clean Logistics will develop trucks equipped with CRYOGAS hydrogen tanks and test refueling systems. The construction of a prototype will take place at the production facilities of Clean Logistics in the town of Winsen (Luhe), near Hamburg.

Truck refueling will take place at a test service station using a new CRYOGAS refueling system.

Graszt explained how Clean Logistics got involved in the CryoTRUCK project.

“We were facing a major problem which was how far you can go with a standard 350 bar hydrogen tank, which just gives you a range of around 400 to 500 kilometres.”

Brunner approached Graszt to see if his company was interested in getting involved in testing CRYOGAS.

“He asked me if we, as the first actors in the conversion of diesel vehicles into zero-emission vehicles, would like to participate in the project. I heard about his idea for the first time and was absolutely convinced of it,” says Graszt.

“We are talking about a range of around 1,000 kilometres. This is the biggest advantage, and I didn’t need to think about it to decide to participate in the project. Our role in the project is simple. The conversion of a diesel truck into a fuel cell driven CRYOGAS truck,” he explains.

Own logistics

Compete with diesel

Brunner says the refueling process using CRYOGAS is very similar to refueling in Formula 1, as they use similar sized nozzles.

“The density of cryo-compressed gas is so high that basically you can build a small nozzle and that’s a big advantage. So it’s a quick charge. All you have to do is lock the nozzle, press the button, then 10 minutes later you should have a full 1,000 kilometers on board,” says Brunner.

“I think cost is a major challenge in the long haul trucking and distribution industry. And we think with our technology, a station could really look very simple and just be a liquid hydrogen storage, a trailer, a pump and a dispenser and a nozzle,” he notes. “The cost could be a big advantage in the future.”

Graszt believes the CROGAS technology offers many business opportunities for his company. He tells us that one of his clients is ready to invest in a fleet of more than 1,000 vehicles within two to three years.

“He even tells me that it is absolutely necessary to compete with diesel trucks and the capacities of diesel trucks. And therefore, it is absolutely necessary to find new ways and new technologies, especially in components such as tank systems as well as the capacity of fuel cells and battery systems, to reduce OPEX costs.

“Perhaps this will be an opportunity to start serial production even for such tank components and systems, starting in 2024/2025,” adds Graszt.

Rear perspective of the Cryomotive 2 tank system

To clean

Our time was almost up, so we took the opportunity to ask the two CEOs for their predictions of what long-distance transportation and mobility will look like by the end of this decade.

“Most of them will be emission free. It will be electric, so also quite quiet. So there is a lot of comfort with electric driving. However, over long distances you will need hydrogen as a carrier because it has such a high density compared to batteries. So I think long-haul trucking, as well as frequent distribution trucking, will use hydrogen. This is my vision and I hope CRYOGAS will play a key role in it,” says Brunner.

Graszt predicts: “I am absolutely sure that the traffic on the roads will increase because we will not be able to reduce or expand railway systems in the next seven to eight years. So what I expect, especially in central Europe, is that we increase heavy truck traffic by up to 10-15%”.

“In Germany we have currently registered in the heavy goods sector about 260,000 vehicles and if I compare this to the climate change targets, which are given to us by our government, we are talking about a 48% reduction in CO2. For To achieve the 48% CO2 reduction, it is necessary to register, in the German traffic and heavy goods sector, around 260,000 vehicles and today we have a completely different figure from this very large gap.”

Graszt claims that only fifty heavy-duty vehicles in Germany are currently emission-free.

“We are now in 2022. We have eight years left, which is a long time of course, and we can save them in eight years. 259,950 emission-free vehicles – now tell me who should do that? ” he asks.

In the years to come, Clean Logistics and Cryomotive will undoubtedly play an important role in helping to clean up the logistics sector in Germany and beyond.

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