Cummins lays out vision for a hydrogen future

by Abdul Latheef

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Less than a week after announcing a partnership with Navistar to develop a Class 8 truck powered by hydrogen fuel cells, Cummins said Monday it is well positioned to lead the transition to a hydrogen economy.

Cummins plans to grow its fuel cell and hydrogen production business, and further solidify the company as a global power leader.  

Tom Linebarger
CEO Tom Linebarger laid out the company’s vision for a hydrogen future Monday. (Screen grab)

“As the world transitions to a low carbon future, Cummins has the financial strength to invest in hydrogen and battery technologies as well as advanced diesel and natural gas powertrains,” said Tom Linebarger, chairman and CEO of the company.

He was speaking at Cummins Hydrogen Day, a virtual conference where the Cummins leadership team reviewed the company’s existing hydrogen portfolio, and discussed specific market opportunities.

“There are a variety of reasons why we believe hydrogen will play an essential role in decarbonizing the global economy,” Linebarger said.

“For one. hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth. It is light. It is storable…”

(Photo: Cummins)

Gray, blue and green hydrogen

Not all hydrogen is green, though, Linebarger explained. There are gray, blue and green hydrogen.

Approximately 70 million tons of hydrogen produced today is gray hydrogen, he said.  It is produced by steam methane reforming, utilizing significant amounts of power through the use of natural gas.

“This produces over 830 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year, which equates to more emissions than all of Germany,” Linebarger added.

Just 1% of hydrogen currently available is green. It is produced through electrolysis, which turns renewable power into hydrogen with zero emissions.

Electrolyzer market lucrative

“The world would need roughly 3.2 terawatt hours (TWh) of renewable power, resulting in over 350,000 megawatts (MW) of electrolyzer buildup. Just to put that in context, that would be worth US$350 billion at today’s electrolyzer prices.”

The company said it plans to generate electrolyzer revenues of at least $400 million in 2025.

Amy Davis, president of New Power at Cummins, said the demand for electrolyzers is growing rapidly.

“Cummins is participating in markets where we see early adoption of these technologies, leveraging our technology leadership, customer relationships, application knowledge, and global service and support capabilities. We also continue to invest in new technologies, such as solid oxide fuel cells, that show promise in stationary power applications,” Davis said.

(Photo: Cummins)

Today, Cummins has more than 2,000 fuel cell installations across a variety of on-and off-highway applications as well as more than 500 electrolyzer installations.

The hydrogen truck Cummins is developing with Navistar will feature next-generation fuel cell configuration. Davis has said that it will provide a springboard for Cummins to advance its technology for line haul trucks.

But the company also expects adoption of fuel cell technology to take time.

It believes infrastructure is a barrier and will require action and engagement from both private industry and government to increase the pace of adoption of hydrogen fuel cell solutions.

Canadian plant

The company is also in the final stages of commissioning the largest PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells) electrolysis plant in the world in Becancour, Que., for Air Liquide.

The 20-MW facility will have an annual hydrogen output of 3,000 tons. The electrolyzer will use surplus renewable hydroelectricity to generate green hydrogen.

Last year, Cummins generated $2.3 billion in profits on sales of $23.6 billion, Linebarger said.

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