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Germany: Lidl switches battery electric logistics fleet to green hydrogen fuel cell

Discount retail chain Lidl (owned the German Schwarz Group) is switching the entire battery-electric vehicle fleet of a logistics hub to fuel cells powered by green hydrogen, making it the first of its kind in Europe, according to a press release.

Around 100 forklifts or 80 percent of the vehicle fleet in the German retailer’s logistics centre in Carquefou, in Western France, already operate on green hydrogen, and the rest is to follow by the end of the year. The centre will be supplied with 75 kilograms of green hydrogen per day generated 75 kilometres away by company Lhyfe using wind energy.

Lidl said refuelling times had been decisive in its decision to opt for fuel cells. “The refuelling time for a hydrogen vehicle is only 2 to 3 minutes compared to several hours for a lead-acid battery,” the company said.

Hydrogen powered vehicles are available 97 percent of the time compared to approximately 50 percent with lead-acid technology, Lidl said, adding this required much fewer charging or refuelling spaces, and allowed a reduction of fleet inventories.

Lidl said it is considering the medium-term deployment of green hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at other logistics centres, or using it to power part of its delivery truck fleet. The Lidl example shows that fuel cell vehicles can offer significant advantages in niche applications where charging times are key, such as logistics centres that operate around the clock even if modern battery-electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries, which can be charged much more rapidly than lead-acid models.

Most experts believe that the majority of commercial vehicles will be battery-electric in the future because they are much more energy-efficient than fuel cells. They also argue that hydrogen will remain a scarce resource and should be used in sectors that cannot be electrified directly, such as industry and aviation.

But in contrast to passenger cars, which look to become almost exclusively battery-electric, the technology race in heavy goods transport is not settled yet. Truckmakers increasingly bet on battery trucks, but some also pursue fuel cell technology.


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