Experts and vehicle manufacturers agree that hydrogen will be an important alternative fuel in the near future. However, the storage of hydrogen – especially in liquid form – poses a number of technical challenges.
The Salzburg Aluminium Group (SAG) is now using its technological leadership in the field of cryogenic tank solutions for LNG-powered trucks to develop the first truck cryotank system for liquid hydrogen (LH2). One of the biggest challenges SAG’s engineers are facing is the extremely low temperature of minus 250 degrees Celsius at which liquid hydrogen must be stored. This and also the requirements for size and weight of the tank system require technical excellence. The development is already so far advanced that prototyping will start in a few months and test phases will begin. Based on the results obtained, the LH2 cryotank made by SAG will go into series production from 2027 and will make a valuable contribution to CO2 reduction in the transport sector.
Hydrogen is regarded as the fuel of the future and – when produced via electrolysis using green electricity – offers a CO2-neutral alternative to diesel fuel. During the conversion of hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy, which takes place by means of a fuel cell, only water and heat are produced as “by-products”. Since only a relatively short range can be achieved in truck transport with compressed gaseous hydrogen, OEMs are very interested in tank solutions for liquid hydrogen. With the cryotank solution developed by SAG, it will be possible to achieve around twice the range of gaseous hydrogen in the future. Trucks equipped with two liquid hydrogen tanks of maximum size registered in Europe should be able to cover up to 1,000 kilometers after a full tank. The decisive factor here is the high energy density of LH2, with which such long ranges can be achieved.
“The low space requirement of the LH2 tank systems which we have developed enables a high transport volume and causes an extremely low payload loss. As a prototype for the LH2 tank system, a double-walled, vacuum-insulated stainless steel tank is being developed. It offers the highest possible hydrogen capacity in the existing installation space. A unique valve system designed for the extremely low temperatures will enable safe refuelling and reliable supply of hydrogen to the fuel cell,” explains Johannes Winklhofer, head of SAG’s R&D department.
CEO Karin Exner-Wöhrer adds: “Due to the EU legislation, which stipulates that car manufacturers must equip around 50 percent of the vehicles produced with zero-emission drives by 2030, there is great interest in a future-oriented storage solution for liquid hydrogen. We can make full use of our know-how in the cryotank sector, which we bring with us from LNG tank production, and open up a new business field that holds great potential for the future – both for SAG and for climate protection.”