Former driver turned safety specialist Ryan Sickles was more than happy to take a break from his desk at Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) near Los Angeles and get more seat time in the Hyzon hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 truck that his company has been testing at the ports in Southern California.
While taking CCJ out for a drive recently at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California, Sickles explained that he’s driven the truck roughly 10 times and has enjoyed every minute of it.
“Every single time I’ve driven it, it’s amazing,” Sickles said while driving the truck toward a parking lot exit at the Long Beach Convention Center. “I like that it’s a Cascadia too. I’m a big fan of Freightliners.”
Hyzon announced last August that the drayage fuel cell truck, built on a 2022 Freightliner Cascadia chassis, would be the first zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) that TTSI would be operating with up to a 400-mile range. TTSI has tested natural gas, all-electric and fuel cell trucks. The Hyzon truck can transport up to 82,000 lbs. gross combined vehicle weight (GCVW), a standard load for TTSI. Its 600 horses are also appreciated.
“The power in this truck is really great, especially on steep grades,” Sickles said while driving on East Shoreline Drive within sight of the Pacific Ocean and the convention center. “Plus, in the battery powertrain, you’ve got instant power and torque on the pedal. There’s no delay like a diesel motor.”
Fueling up the truck at Shell hydrogen pumps at the ports can be done in 10 to 15 minutes compared to charging an all-electric which, depending on the rate of charge, can take hours.
“It’s an easy process,” Sickles said. “I don’t know if you’re familiar with compressed natural gas technology but it’s pretty much identical. It’s not dangerous at all. Compared to fueling up with liquid natural gas which is slightly volatile — you’d have to wear gloves and a face mask — but with hydrogen, no.”
Sickles enjoys the truck’s regenerative braking, which recharges the powertrain battery. The fuel cell generator is also very quiet, there’s no need for changing gears and with water vapor as its only emission, it’s won over TTSI drivers who’ve grown leery of diesel.
“The drivers do like these because the diesel smell and the exhaust can kind of get to you after time and when they get into a truck like this it’s not noisy and you don’t get that diesel smell that can give you headaches. It does make a huge difference in driver acceptance,” Sickles explained.
Shop visits have also been impressive.
“As far as maintenance, these trucks are much, much better,” Sickles said. “There’s far less to maintain. With diesel trucks, there’s far more moving parts.”
Switching to fuel cell can prove daunting at first for some drivers.
“I was a driver too and I’ll tell you that drivers, for the most part, they don’t change and when you try to put them into a truck like this it’s scary,” Sickles explained. “They immediately think, ‘I’m not going to be able to do as much work. I’m not going to go as fast.’”
However, Sickles continued “once they test it out and realize how reliable and how powerful the truck is – you have immediate response on the throttle compared to a diesel where have a lot of lag – they’re won over, especially when traveling uphill.
“If you’re hitting steep grades like the Grapevine (also known as the Tejon Pass located along Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles where the grade runs as a steep as 6%) when you’re in a truck like this you have immediate power and drivers really love that,” Sickles said.