The three companies, together with JB Hunt Transport, are planning to roll out the complete solution for a fleet of heavy duty hydrogen-free trucks.
The move is further evidence that carmakers continue to place huge bets on hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, despite major fuel restrictions.
As part of the deal, Navistar is introducing a new fuel cell vehicle in 2024, called the International RH Series truck.
Test versions of the truck will be launched before that in 2022, and the companies aim to have a fuel cell vehicle equipped with an engine capable of traveling more than 800 km with less than 15 minutes of refueling time.
Navistar described the propulsion system of the International RH Series truck: The fuel cell electric vehicle gets its power from two GM Hydrotec fuel cell power cubes.
Each energy cube contains more than 300 hydrogen fuel cells, along with energy and heat management systems. The cube is small and easy to add for many different applications.
Hydrogen fuel cells, which use compressed hydrogen as their fuel and release only water vapor as emissions, were developed decades ago, and recently achieved performance and range good enough to replace gasoline.
However, hydrogen as a common fuel source has been hampered by the almost complete lack of fuel infrastructure, and experts predict that commercial vehicles such as trucks and forklifts could benefit more from hydrogen thanks to access to central and industrial gas stations.
Other auto makers have expressed interest in hydrogen-powered trucks as well, and Toyota in 2019 unveiled a fuel cell truck concept as part of a feasibility study conducted by the Port of Los Angeles, which outlines the port’s efforts to reduce harmful emissions.
Nikola was the prime example of hydrogen’s promises, with the startup claiming that its H2-powered truck would have an operational range of 1,930 kilometers when it launched in 2020, and that hasn’t happened.
Navistar appears to be a lesser bet for General Motors, as it was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2016, after squandering billions of dollars on a diesel engine that failed to win EPA approval.
After US regulators announced new rules to reduce carbon emissions from large trucks, Navistar faced pressure to find a technical partner, and here came Volkswagen’s turn to buy a stake in the company, which has since been on more stable grounds.