Midwest states ally to produce hydrogen, potentially for fuel-cell semis

Seven Midwestern states have signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate hydrogen production, potentially providing a fuel supply for fuel-cell semi trucks.

Dubbed the Midwest Hydrogen Coalition, the group of participating states includes Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, according to a release.

Under the agreement, reported by Transport Topics, participating states will work together to identify the best ways to produce hydrogen in their region, and to define “clean hydrogen.” 

GM-Navistar partnership

GM-Navistar partnership

The coalition will also promote the Midwest as a promising area for hydrogen production specifically touting existing infrastructure for ammonia production and transport, such as pipelines. Ammonia “is an ideal hydrogen carrier,” the group claims.

Among the stated uses for this hydrogen is transportation, including medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks, as well as rail, aviation, and Great Lakes shipping applications. But hydrogen commercial trucks might be closer to maturity than other forms of transportation.

California a year ago predicted 100 retail hydrogen stations by the end of 2023, but that’s with a head start over the Midwest and other regions. Infrastructure in California has been slowly developing to service small numbers of passenger cars leased in the state to satisfy a zero-emission vehicle mandate. Drivers of fuel-cell cars have experienced unreliable stations and inconsistent hydrogen supplies, so hopefully the Midwest coalition will learn from California’s experience.

One by one, automakers have been shifting their fuel-cell focus away from passenger vehicles—perhaps accelerated by some severe supply issues in 2019 and 2020. That’s accelerated fuel-cell truck research already be ing conducted by some automakers.

Toyota 'Project Portal' proof-of-concept hydrogen fuel-cell powered semi tractor, for Port of LA

Toyota ‘Project Portal’ proof-of-concept hydrogen fuel-cell powered semi tractor, for Port of LA

In California, Toyota just successfully completed a program using 10 hydrogen fuel-cell semis for port duty, and it plans to make hydrogen fuel-cell modules in the U.S. starting in 2023. General Motors in 2021 announced a program with Navistar that will result in 2,000 long-haul hydrogen fuel-cell semis.