The business case for hydrogen fuel cell trucks and vans, and the number of refuelling sites needed to support commercial operation is to be mapped out in California.

It will be carried out through a partnership between Ricardo Strategic Consulting and the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP).

Ricardo’s total cost of ownership (TCO) calculator can be used to analyse a wide range of alternative fuel technologies - such as natural gas, battery electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell.

It provides a detailed report of both upfront and operating costs incurred over the ownership period of the truck or van, including benchmarked vehicle prices, duty-cycle based MPG, itemised scheduled and unscheduled maintenance costs, future fuel prices and required infrastructure investment.

This is complemented by economic modelling of refuelling infrastructure to provide a picture of installation and operational costs for new sites.

Ricardo said it enables vehicle manufacturers, operators, transport authorities and urban planners to make informed decisions about the rollout of new technology.

It will be used to support California’s aim to enable adoption of fuel cell technology in HGVs and vans, following CaFCP’s strategy released last year: Medium and heavy-duty fuel cell electric truck action plan.

“Economic modelling and assessment is vital in identifying and overcoming barriers to the commercialisation of advanced technology, and to developing a strong business case against which customers can invest,” said Piyush Bubna from Ricardo Strategic Consulting.

“Medium and heavy-duty fuel cell electric trucks will play a crucial role in reducing vehicle emissions in California,” said Bill Elrick, CaFCP executive director, “but they are at the beginning stages of introduction."

He added: “Ricardo’s TCO model provides an enabling toolset that will help CaFCP members develop a consensus as to the potential of hydrogen fuel cell technology, as an alternative to diesel propulsion in truck fleets operating in California.”

California is to be the testbed for Toyota's Project Portal trial, which will see a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell concept truck hit the roads this summer.