First Hydrogen fuel-cell van impresses at WWU

By Categories: Commercial NewsPublished On: Friday 22 March 2024

Zero-emissions vehicle developer First Hydrogen has reported that it has successfully completed hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle (FCEV) trials with gas distribution network Wales & West Utilities (WWU), accruing the vehicle’s highest ever mileage.

The first-of-its-kind van completed more than 2,000 km (>1,200 miles) over the four-week trial, travelling up to 189 km / 117 miles per day on mostly urban roads and highways in some of South Wales’ coldest conditions.

The vehicle also demonstrated the full power capability of the fuel cell module, says First Hydrogen, with outputs higher than 60kW in transient accelerations, showing capability for demanding duties, such as carrying heavier payloads, towing and powering auxiliary equipment (onboard power).

The trial had already demonstrated that there was no decrease in vehicle performance or range when operating in colder temperatures. First Hydrogen earlier reported that data collected from onboard telematics prior to the completion of the trials, over a combined distance of 1,029 km, had showed the vehicle had been operating for between 6 and 7 hours per day in temperatures of between 2°C and 17°C, without impacting range.

The FCEV was shared by two drivers from WWU’s Network Emergency & Metering Services team who are responsible for emergency metering work for more than 7.5 million customers across Wales and the south west of England.

Most of the vehicle’s journeys were travelling to customer callouts, averaging 5-6 visits per day. The team has to respond quickly to calls and often covers long distances while transporting the bulky equipment needed for repairs.

WWU driver Alun Jones with First Hydrogen’s FCEV

Alun Jones, first call operative (FCO) for WWU and driver in First Hydrogen’s trials, commented: “First Hydrogen’s van is lovely to drive and allowed us to get on with our job. The fact you can quickly refuel rather than charge up overnight is a massive advantage for us as sometimes we respond to calls from our homes in the middle of the night.

“I can definitely see the hydrogen vans working at WWU in terms of the efficiency we need.”

The second driver Steve Morgan, also an FCO for WWU, added: “Our van is everything for us; it’s our office and it’s how we transport our equipment and charge our laptops and phones so we can respond to call outs. Therefore, we need vehicles that are comfortable and reliable and that can carry everything we need. We do a lot of miles so also need the range.”

WWU is exploring zero emissions vehicle technology to suit its operational requirements and the trials provided the transport team with the opportunity to experience the benefits of a FCEV first-hand.

Stephen Offley, transport manager for WWU, added: “We are impressed with how the van operates and its overall performance – particularly as this is a prototype vehicle and we were breaking new ground by creating our own hydrogen vehicle ecosystem.

“Testing the vehicle with our FCOs meant we could demonstrate its use in a front-line service role and provide credible findings for us to share with our stakeholders and other fleet managers. The data generated from the trials also gives us a case to push for fixed hydrogen infrastructure in the area so we can benefit from faster refuelling and operational simplicity.”

First Hydrogen says the trials have provided it and WWU with important data that will help to inform future development.

Steve Gill, executive director automotive, First Hydrogen, says: “We’re thrilled with the feedback from Wales & West Utilities.

“Having covered more miles in a single trial than ever before, we have generated a significant amount of vehicle data. Sharing the van between two drivers, neither of whom has driven a zero emission vehicle before, has given us insight into how different driving styles can affect performance. By reviewing this data and speaking to the WWU team, we have identified further opportunities to improve fuel consumption and optimise efficiency.

“We have also gained valuable data, which enables us to model Total Cost of Operations (TCO), key information for fleet operators considering a transition to hydrogen fuel. We have presented our initial findings to the WWU board who responded positively and are keen to progress with next steps.”

First Hydrogen says the trials have proven that hydrogen mobility is still possible for fleet operators without access to fixed hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. The trials were supported by Protium Energy Solutions, which provided green hydrogen to fuel the vehicle and Hyppo Hydrogen Solutions, which supplied a re-deployable hydrogen refuelling unit.

DataHorizzon Research has reported that the global hydrogen fuel cell vehicles market is projected to grow from US$2.2 billion (£1.7 billion) in 2023 to US$82.1 billion (£64.2 billion) by 2032, at 49.1 per cent CAGR.

It anticipates that fleet operators such as WWU will drive zero emission vehicle sales – which includes hydrogen fuel cell commercial vehicles – as they strive to decarbonise in line with government mandates to phase out fossil fuel vehicles.