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July 14, 2024
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The Alberta Government supports California start-up Verne’s first Class 8 truck with CcH2 through Alberta Innovates and Alberta partners

“We are funding new, innovative technologies that will ultimately help hydrogen power Alberta’s industries, vehicles, homes and economy in the years ahead. We are reducing emissions through technologies, not taxes, and creating jobs at the same time.”

- Rebecca Shulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

Verne will work with Alberta-based Diesel Tech Industries (DTI), to retrofit a diesel truck to run on cryo-compressed hydrogen and diesel using a “dual-fuel” combustion engine. Verne will then work with Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) and Alberta-based fleets to demonstrate the benefits of cryo-compressed hydrogen trucks when operating in Alberta.

WATERTODAY reached out to Bav Roy, Co-founder & COO at Verne to learn more about Verne’s innovative technology.

By Suzanne Forcese

WT: Please give us an overview of Verne.

Roy: Verne provides high-density hydrogen technology for heavy-duty transportation and hydrogen distribution. Our first target market is Class 8 trucking.

WT: When was Verne founded and what was the inspiration that brought the founding team together?

Roy: Verne was founded in 2020. The three founders, Ted McKlveen, David Jaramillo and I (Bav Roy) identified that existing hydrogen storage and distribution technologies would not meet the needs of the growing hydrogen industry, despite exciting new ways to produce hydrogen at low cost and low emissions and new opportunities to utilize this hydrogen.

The existing methods of storing hydrogen and moving it around remained a major concern for industry. Verne was founded with the mission of solving this challenge through a novel technology: cryo-compressed hydrogen.

WT: Please give us an idea of the combined Team talent.

Roy: The three Verne founders are joined by industry veterans and bright graduates from Stanford, UC Berkeley, and MIT. The Verne team of full-time staff and advisors includes Dr. Salvador Aceves, the original inventor of cryo-compressed hydrogen, Tom Linebarger, the former CEO of Cummins, Dr. Kaushik Mallick, an industry veteran in hydrogen storage pressure vessels and Vincent Heloin, the former Deputy Group Leader of Cryogenics at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Other team members bring experience in hydrogen vehicle development at JCB and Nikola - they have joined Verne as they see the importance of cryo-compressed hydrogen technology to achieving diesel-parity performance for zero-emission vehicles.

WT: What is the challenge that you have been called to answer with your solution?

Roy: Current hydrogen trucks use compressed hydrogen gas tanks. Unfortunately, these tanks are heavy and low in density. While these hydrogen trucks have superior range over battery-electric trucks, they still require fleets to compromise on range and payload. Verne's high-density fuel systems enable diesel-parity vehicle range and payload and unlock cost savings on both the hydrogen fuel and the vehicle. 

WT: What is CcH2? How have you taken a concept and developed it?

Roy: CcH2 or cryo-compressed hydrogen is a method to store hydrogen as a cold pressurized gas. The hydrogen is stored at cool temperatures (-200C) and moderate pressures (350 bar).

It is the thermodynamic sweet spot for hydrogen, where the fuel can be stored at the highest possible density, while avoiding the challenges that come with liquid hydrogen temperatures (-253C) and high pressure (700 bar). 

The concept was first developed at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and demonstrated as a proof of concept for light duty vehicles. Verne has scaled the technology to make it appropriate for the scale required for heavy duty trucks and bulk transport. 

WT: Alberta Innovates drives research and innovation by providing funding, services, and expertise to post-secondary researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry. Verne has, in a very short time, received recognition on the world stage – and now recognition and support from Alberta Innovates. What has this meant for the Verne Team?

Roy: Verne is thrilled to have the support of Alberta Innovates to demonstrate the first truck powered by cryo-compressed hydrogen in Alberta.

The Alberta hydrogen ecosystem has been incredibly welcoming, and we're excited to partner with local organizations and communities to demonstrate the benefits of this new zero-emission technology within the unique environmental conditions in Alberta.

WT: Please describe how the Verne technology works. What are the benefits and advantages?

Roy: Verne provides both storage and refueling technology to allow heavy duty vehicles to utilize the high-density cryo-compressed hydrogen gas. The storage systems have the highest density, which enables trucks with hydrogen fuel cells or engines to maximize their range and payload (higher storage density means that fewer tanks are required to store an equivalent amount of hydrogen, resulting in lighter systems).

WT: How will Verne be working with Alberta based partners? Please describe the project. What are you expecting the project to demonstrate? How will the project benefit Alberta? What is the status of your goals?

Roy: Verne is working with Edmonton-based Diesel Tech Industries (DTI). DTI's dual-fuel engine retrofit technology will be incorporated in the first cryo-compressed hydrogen truck to demonstrate how the novel fuel can be used with the existing fleet of tractors on the road today.

The project will involve demonstrating this dual-fuel engine truck (diesel-hydrogen), powered by Verne's high-capacity hydrogen storage systems.

Beyond DTI, Verne is collaborating with additional Alberta-based organizations to ensure a successful demonstration that provides helpful learnings to Alberta-based truck fleets on how this technology can be utilized.

WT: Moving forward what are the next steps?

Roy: The next step will be to complete the integration of the first cryo-compressed hydrogen truck in Alberta later this year. Then, we'll be working with partners to conduct extensive validation testing ahead of a pilot in late 2025.

WT: We shall follow your progress!

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