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By Ian Foreman

Nearly everything that we buy is transported by a truck – think about that… And the amount of fuel that is used to transport these goods to consumers is astounding.  A Vancouver-based company is moving doggedly forwards with their vision of providing a long overdue fix to one of the world’s largest industries.   Hydra Energy (Hydra) is the first company to deliver a hydrogen-converted, heavy-duty transport truck to a paying fleet customer.   Their goal is a paradigm shift in the trucking industry’s reliance on diesel fuel. And the timing couldn’t be better as greenhouse gas emissions are quickly returning to pre-pandemic levels thanks in large part to increased pollution from freight.   

Hydra offers the world’s first scalable and profitable model that leverages and connects existing low-carbon hydrogen supply with increasing transportation demand.  Their zero-cost, end-to-end green trucking solution for commodity haulers is currently on the road and commercial fleet owners are taking notice.  This is accomplished with the company’s proprietary hydrogen-diesel, co-combustion retrofit for heavy-duty vehicles. The newly retrofitted trucks immediately reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 40%, and that is accomplished with no upfront costs or risks in using a new technology. 

Hydra pays for and installs the conversion kits into the commercial fleet trucks of its customers.  The conversion is fully reversible and does not negatively impact truck performance.  

Hydra then supports their fleet customers by providing the necessary hydrogen fueling stations at geographically important locations based on low-carbon hydrogen it has sourced in the region.  Hydra’s unique Hydrogen-as-a-Service (HaaSTM) business model connects hydrogen supply and demand in a way that helps companies monetize their available hydrogen and commercial fleet operators secure long-term fuel contracts at diesel-equivalent prices. Securing this low-carbon hydrogen is critical for this model to be successful so Hydra continues to work with a variety of supply partners in Canada on long-term contracts.

The benefit to the customer is an immediate reduction in truck emissions with no change in performance.  The benefits of Hydra’s proprietary system are well documented as it has been road tested by professional drivers over 240,000 kms of the most challenging climate and road conditions.  These gruelling tests have shown that the required high-performance criteria are even met in cold weather and can even be switched back to diesel at anytime.

The dual-fuel retrofit takes two days and involves the installation of the proprietary conversion kit as well as new hydrogen tanks, which are installed along the back of the truck’s cab and can hold up to 40 kg of hydrogen, which is equivalent to displacing approximately 133 litres of diesel.

In exchange for the free installation of the conversion kits, Hydra’s customers agree to a long-term contract to purchase low-carbon hydrogen fuel from the company. The contracted hydrogen will be priced at the forecasted diesel equivalent which means that the client’s operational costs should not increase.

Additionally, each truck will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 67 tonnes per year with no loss in fuel efficiency, range, power, torque, or payload capacity – even in cold winters.  According to Utility Smarts, a litre of diesel emits a surprising 2.62 kg of carbon dioxide.   Hydra’s proprietary system reduces the amount of diesel consumed and thus lowers the production of dangerous emissions. 

The widespread adoption of Hydra’s technology has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas released by the trucking industry.  And that isn’t a small number – although current statists are difficult to find, multiple sources estimate that there are in excess of 280,000 large trucks (trucks that weigh greater than 15 tonnes) on the road in Canada. As can be expected, these numbers are dwarfed by the United States where the American Trucking Associations estimates that there are 3.97 million Class 8 trucks in operation in 2020.

Hydra’s flagship operation is based out of Prince George, British Columbia, where it is building the world’s largest hydrogen refuelling station that is scheduled to be operational in mid-2023.  Prince George is ideally located for this first station as it is in the approximate geographic centre of the province.   This new refuelling station will allow heavy-duty trucks that are retrofitted with Hydra’s hydrogen-diesel, co-combustion kit to refuel just as quickly as diesel.

An important component of Hydra’s business plan is the sourcing of the hydrogen that it will make available to their clients at competitive prices to the cost of diesel.  Sourcing will vary depending on the region as the company will source from multiple hydrogen-producing partners based on who makes sense for each area.

Prince George is also home to Lodgewood Enterprises, Hydra Energy’s first fleet customer. In a ringing endorsement to the initial success of the project, Lodgewood has ordered the remaining eleven trucks of their fleet to be converted which stands to reduce their emissions by over 800 tonnes per year

Hydra isn’t resting on their laurels though.  They recently announced expansion into Alberta with a new contract with Veteran Express Secure Logistics (VEXSL).  This new partnership will create the world’s first hydrogen-converted armoured vehicle.  They also announced a demonstration project with the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) and Hercules Logistics to run a hydrogen-converted Class 8 fleet within the EIA’s Sustainability Campus.

Hydra is leveraging these new partnerships to expand into Alberta and create an additional base of operations in Edmonton.  Initially, Hydra will support fleets in the Edmonton area doing round trips that are less than 1,000 kms. 

This expansion is being done with the full support of the local government as well as the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) who’s zero-emissions mobility strategy is putting its weight behind Hydra. Amanda Mesluk, Manager, Research and Innovation with the AMTA stated, “We are excited to offer technology and fuel options to our carrier members interested in exploring a hydrogen landscape. We support all our partners in working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta and beyond.”

Edmonton is a natural next step for Hydra as Edmonton is ideally located to connect their Prince George hub further east into Canada along trucking routes.  But Edmonton is only the first of many expansions that the company has planned as they have mapped out potential low-carbon hydrogen suppliers across North America. By leveraging existing sources of hydrogen, Hydra is helping hydrogen producers monetize their hydrogen earlier while reducing significant emissions from one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonize.

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