Mobile hydrogen technology is gradually stepping on the heels of not only internal combustion engines but also its electric battery counterparts. One of the more amazing achievements in heavy-duty hydrogen transport is happening right now in the Dakar Rally. Gaussin, a French company, has entered the competition with its racing truck powered by 4 fuel cells producing 380 kW and fueled by 80 kg of hydrogen stored in 14 tanks at 350 bar. This, the very first hydrogen entry in the competition, was covered in a recent article. It is time to introduce the company and its rich history with clean energy vehicles a little bit more.
Gaussin is a 140-year-old public company led by Christophe Gaussin, a fifth-generation member of the family that originally founded the company. The company has evolved from producing steel for construction, to containers and now to manufacturing a variety of heavy duty vehicles for logistics and cargo transportation. In France, the company operates from two main locations—Héricourt (located near the border with Switzerland) serving as the headquarters and R&D center while the vehicle production facilities are located in Saint-Vallier. The company’s aspirations are to grow beyond France. The recently announced Aramco partnership also aims to establish a production facility for on-road and off-road hydrogen-powered vehicles in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, probably prompting a flashy demonstration in the Dakar Rally to establish the excitement for the company’s expansion in the Middle East. In North America, the manufacturing partnerships include Plug Power in New York, NY in the US and Loop Energy in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Gaussin strategizes that bringing hydrogen trucks to market will require global solutions and building a business ecosystem through partnerships with international players like HRS, Air Liquide, EDF Hynamics, and others.
In 2012, the company switched to battery electric vehicles becoming the largest provider of electric yard hustlers for the cargo handling segment in Europe. And as the hydrogen technology has matured, Gaussin’s latest innovations are focused on integrating fuel cell power into its vehicle designs and developing a flexible power architecture that can accommodate both electric and hydrogen modules for power. This, in turn, will better meet customer needs for emissions-free transport.
Gaussin’s core product line is focused on providing heavy-duty goods and cargo transport options that cover ports, logistics centers and airports. Almost all the vehicle platforms in this range are available in battery electric and hydrogen fueling configurations, with manned cab or cabless autonomous driving options available across the board.
For example, Gaussin will test APM H2 75T, the first hydrogen-powered heavy handling tractor, in spring 2022 at Terminal du Grand Ouest located in the mouth of Loire River nearby Nantes. The APM H2 75T tractor powered by 230kW will be able to tow 75 tons of goods backed by 10 kg of hydrogen on board for a day shift. Of course, hydrogen can be refueled rather quickly at a dedicated refueling station.
The H2 Racing truck is a recent addition to Gaussin’s new range of On-Road products, launched in 2021 with the Road Truck Skateboard, which features the ultra-light modular skateboard chassis developed in partnership with Magna International. “The skateboard’s modular design enables battery or hydrogen units to be integrated to power the common electric propulsion. To assure flexibility in selecting either power source, engineers established a suite of common components and controls for the modules to be integrated into the core platform,” said Jean-Claude Bailly, Executive VP for Gaussin’s On-Road Division and responsible for the development of the H2 racing truck.
The company motto is Faster, Safer, Cleaner. While the cleaner theme has already been introduced, the cutting-edge innovation continues in Faster and Safer as well. In the goods movement sector, faster is paramount. The US government had to step in to stimulate the largest US ports to process more cargo ships. Gaussin’s designs include all wheel articulation to speed up maneuvering of its vehicles. Autonomous technologies will accomplish another side of Faster as well as the Safer motivation. Gaussin believes that autonomy in controlled environments of the cargo handling industry with reduced variability is already at a high readiness level poised for deployment as demonstration preparations are being made at GAM Qatar, Qatar’s leading logistics and supply chain solutions provider.
Similarly, Gaussin is also optimistic about autonomous truck solutions on dedicated roads where regulations can be achieved earlier than for passenger cars. The autonomous sensor suite includes localization with high resolution mapping and GPS, radars, lidars and cameras covering around the vehicle.. Of course, challenges still remain with handling trailers because they don’t have any sensors themselves and the vehicle needs to come up with corresponding solutions to address the reduced visibility at both logistics facilities as well as on the road.
“Our growth is the result of our dedication to continuous, smart innovation, and our mission to offer the best clean energy, zero-emissions options for the heavy transportation industry. We will continue to develop proprietary solutions, as well as to team up with industry and sovereign partners that share our mission to create a robust ecosystem of technology and infrastructure solutions for eco-conscious owners and operators,” said Christophe Gaussin, CEO of Gaussin.
Gaussin is one of the most interesting mobility innovators to have powerfully entered the market with the growing suite of product offerings, alternative fuels and smart technologies.
Gary Patterson, Executive Vice President for Gaussin North America, added: “At Gaussin, we believe that hydrogen is the future for heavy-duty transportation, and we are well-poised to leverage our focus on closed environments like ports and logistics centers, that will become the proving grounds for these hydrogen solutions. Our experience in electric, autonomous, and other core technologies will accelerate this transition.”
It will be exciting to watch this manufacturer delivering on all of its initiatives and pushing the industry forward as we see it at Dakar.