Volvo to start testing hydrogen combustion engine

Cannon Mug Headshot
Volvo hydrogren combustion
Volvo Trucks is developing trucks with combustion engines that run on hydrogen. On-road tests with trucks using hydrogen in combustion engines will begin in 2026, and the commercial launch is planned towards the end of this decade. Trucks that run on green hydrogen provide a significant step to Volvo achieving its net zero goal and supporting customers to reach their decarbonization targets.

Many truck and engine OEMs have publicly stated their commitment to move away from fossil fuels in the coming decades, but most have not committed to completely toss the engine to the curb.

Volvo Trucks, during ACT Expo in Las Vegas Wednesday, announced it is developing trucks with combustion engines that run on hydrogen, and that on-road tests with trucks using hydrogen in combustion engines will begin in 2026. Lab testing is currently underway, and commercial launch is planned toward the end of this decade. 

Hydrogen combustion, while it doesn't get the same spotlight at its fuel cell sibling, is a viable near-zero emissions solution that mostly uses existing technology, noted Volvo Trucks Head of Product Management and Quality Jan Hjelmgren. 

“Trucks where the traditional internal combustion engine remains but runs on hydrogen will have the same performance and reliability as our diesel trucks, but with the added benefit of very low CO2 emissions," he said. "They will be a valuable complement to our battery electric trucks, which have been on the market for several years."

Volvo trucks with hydrogen-powered combustion engines will feature High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI), a technology where a small amount of ignition fuel is injected with high pressure to enable compression ignition before hydrogen is added. Volvo Group and Westport last year established a joint venture to accelerate the commercialization of Westport’s High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI) fuel system technology for long-haul and off-road applications.

Hydrogen combustion isn't a zero emission technology because it produces low levels of NOx. However, Volvo trucks with combustion engines powered by green hydrogen, Hjelmgren said, will be able to deliver very low CO2 when using renewable HVO as ignition fuel and categorized as a “Zero Emission Vehicle” (ZEV) under the agreed new EU CO2 emission standards.

Hydrogen combustion is marginally less efficient than a hydrogen fuel cell under certain load conditions, but it is substantially less expensive and comes with a lower payload penalty and space requirement.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].