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Evaluation of Fuel Cell Auxiliary Power Units for Heavy-Duty Diesel Trucks


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Suggested Citation:
Brodrick, Christie-Joy, Timothy E. Lipman, Mohammad Farshchi, Nicholas P. Lutsey, Harry A. Dwyer, Daniel Sperling, S. W. Gouse, III, D. B. Harris, Foy G. King, Jr. (2002) Evaluation of Fuel Cell Auxiliary Power Units for Heavy-Duty Diesel Trucks. Transportation Research Part D 7 (4), 303 - 315

A large number of heavy-duty trucks idle a significant amount. Heavy-duty line-haul truck engines idle about 20–40% of the time the engine is running, depending on season and operation. Drivers idle engines to power climate control devices (e.g., heaters and air conditioners) and sleeper compartment accessories (e.g., refrigerators, microwave ovens, and televisions) and to avoid start-up problems in cold weather. Idling increases air pollution and energy use, as well as wear and tear on engines. Efforts to reduce truck idling in the US have been sporadic, in part because it is widely viewed in the trucking industry that further idling restrictions would unduly compromise driver comfort and truck operations. The auxiliary power units (APUs) available to replace the idling of the diesel traction engine all have had limited trucking industry acceptance. Fuel cells are a promising APU technology. Fuel cell APUs have the potential to greatly reduce emissions and energy use and save money. In this paper, we estimate costs and benefits of fuel cell APUs. We calculate the payback period for fuel cell APUs to be about 2.6–4.5 years. This estimate is uncertain since future fuel cell costs are unknown and cost savings from idling vary greatly across the truck fleet. The payback period is particularly sensitive to diesel fuel consumption at idle. Given the large potential environmental and economic benefits of fuel cell APUs, the first major commercial application of fuel cells may be as truck APUs.