New hydrogen-powered semis to be tested in Alberta, but they aren't cheap

They look like normal semi-trucks, but they don't smell or ride like them.

That's because there are no diesel engines underneath the hoods of several trucks on display this week at the International Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Event inside the Edmonton Convention Centre.

"(The engine) was removed and we installed our fuel cell system, battery and hydrogen storage system," explained Cory Shumaker from Hyzon Motors.

"(Drivers are) going to notice that they don’t smell anything, it’s not vibrating a ton and that it’s just smooth. So they go home to their families and they don’t smell like diesel."

The event features a "hydrogen truck wall" with companies Hydra, Lodgewood, Toyota and Hyzon featured.

Much like a standard diesel, the Hyzon fuel cell electric vehicle can pull more than 37,000 kilograms (82,000 pounds). It can also drive up to 500 kilometres, but with zero emissions.

"You can refuel that truck in 15 minutes and get right back on the road, which is a dramatic advantage over a battery electric version, which would require at least an hour or two hours of down time for charging," Shumaker said.

The ride to the event marked the first time a fuel cell truck has been driven on Canadian roads, organizers said. Later this week, Alberta trucking companies will get to test drive the fuel cell rigs for themselves.

"And we’ve got a couple of other fuel technology trucks that they’re going to be able to borrow within their fleets for a period of two to three weeks and try them in their regular business operations," added Terri Johnson with the Alberta Motor Transport Association.

She said some Alberta companies are currently testing trucks that use both hydrogen and diesel.

"The benefit for transportation is that if there isn’t hydrogen fueling available they can run it just on straight diesel," Johnson explained.

As interest grows in hydrogen as a fuel source, Johnson said there are plans to build a fuelling station in Edmonton, then in Calgary.

"From there we’re going to be using mobile fuelers and branching out into different corridors that are being identified that are high use for the carriers so that these can actually be used in their daily operations," she said.

The hydrogen-diesel combo may be more attractive to companies to start with because it's much cheaper than a hydrogen-only model.

"Cost is a major consideration. These trucks are at least $500,000 USD or more so that really puts the pressure on the (manufacturer), which is ourselves, to work in years to come to bring those prices down," Shumaker said.

The gathering wraps up on Thursday.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson