General Motors (GM) is gearing up to combine the best of battery-electric and hydrogen powertrains in its pickup trucks, according to a new report from the USA.
GM Authority reports medium-duty pickup trucks released as soon as 2026 could feature hydrogen fuel-cells and large lithium-ion battery packs, in essence creating a hydrogen plug-in hybrid.
“The battery pack would have less capacity than an equivalent pack used to power a pure BEV, but would still have enough juice to act as the main power source for the electric motors,” GM Authority says.
General Motors has previously said it plans to offer hydrogen fuel-cell technology in its medium-duty (trucks badged between 4500 and 6500) vehicles after 2025, but hasn’t confirmed what form that’ll take.
Most fuel-cell vehicles have a small battery pack, which is constantly fed by the hydrogen fuel-cell stack. The Toyota Mirai features a 1.2kWh lithium-ion battery, but it’s not large enough to power the car alone for more than a moment.
Instead, it’s on hand to ensure there’s always energy for the car’s electric motors to immediately draw upon.
The combination of a power source (currently a petrol or diesel engine) that can be refuelled quickly, and a larger battery pack good for between of 50 and 100 kilometres of driving on its own, has been pitched as the best of both worlds for some owners.
In a petrol or diesel PHEV, the battery and electric motor allows a car to offer zero-emissions motoring in some circumstances, without the range anxiety or limitations associated with electric vehicles.
Given hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles emit no carbon dioxide to start with, it’s not entirely clear what benefit a battery pack would bring to hydrogen-fuelled GM trucks.
The battery pack could extend the vehicle’s range if hydrogen wasn’t available, or could be used to power external appliances without relying on hydrogen while stationary.
Don’t be surprised to see similar technology roll out across the GM and Honda line-ups, however.
The pair has a partnership to develop hydrogen fuel-cell and electric cars, and Honda recently announced plans to sell a plug-in hybrid hydrogen CR-V in the USA from 2024.
It’s common in passenger cars and SUVs, but plug-in hybrid technology isn’t yet widespread in the ute or truck world.