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Cummins, Navistar, and Werner to Develop Hydrogen Truck

Cummins and Navistar go together like garlic and onions. They recently extended their eighty-year partnership even further. Now the two companies hope to work together in the race to get a hydrogen fuel cell heavy-duty truck to market, with the help of a third company.


The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) wants to actively promote the development of this technology, where the primary emission is liquid water. In this regard, the EERE has given Cummins a grant: $7 million dollars for research to create hydrogen fuel powertrains that:

  1. Meet or exceed current comparable diesel powertrains in terms of performance (horsepower and torque).
  2. Is 65% the price of a comparable diesel powertrain (for faster market adoption).
  3. Is highly scalable and can be produced for a massive market.
  4. Has fuel efficiency equal to or greater than current diesel trucks.

The purpose of the project is not just to create a viable fuel cell big rig, but also to make using it preferable to diesel. Most likely, this project will cost Cummins more than $7 million, of which the rest will come out of Cummins own research and development budget.

“This vehicle will feature our next generation fuel cell configuration and provides a springboard for us to advance our hydrogen technology for line haul trucks,” said Amy Davis, vice president of Cummins. “We are also excited to build on our strong relationship with Navistar, which dates back 80 years, and work together to lower costs and make hydrogen-powered vehicles more accessible for fleets to adopt.”

Navistar is also throwing their hat in the ring, providing the rest of the Class 8 trucks that will house the hydrogen fuel cell powertrains during initial field testing.

Field testing is planned to be done over the course of a year through practical use by Werner Enterprises, one of the largest logistics companies in the United States. The vehicle(s) will operate within a 150 mile radius of Werner Enterprises’ base of operations in Fontana, California. The specific number of trucks being tested with hydrogen fuel cell technology was not disclosed, most likely to deter hijacking and theft of the technology

“This integration aligns with our Environmental, Social and Governance initiatives as we continually look for new ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Scott Reed, head of purchasing and maintenance at Werner Enterprises. “Testing the vehicle in real-world conditions will help paint a full picture of how the system performs over challenging road conditions, including both hot and cold climates. In addition to that performance data, we are excited about the opportunity to provide feedback from Werner professional drivers, mechanics and fleet management to help the project team develop a comprehensive total cost of ownership analysis.”


Cummins and Navistar have worked together for the better half of a century now, but there has been a slight snag that may be problematic later on: Traton of Volkswagen Group has agreed to purchase Navistar in full. Will this project be shelved under the new management, perhaps jeopardizing the relationship? Probably not, as Traton already owned 1/6th of Navistar before buying it out completely. With a project this ambitious however, there is no room for chances. Hopefully Traton and Cummins have already reached an agreement about continuing the Navistar partnership for many more years to come.

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