Features
1 Dec 22

Major UK fleet explores hydrogen van possibilities

One of the UK’s biggest fleets is to investigate the possibility of using hydrogen as a zero emission source of energy to power its vans.

British Gas, which runs the third largest fleet in the UK, has already electrified a quarter of its 12,000 vehicles, adopting Vauxhall Vivaro-e vans, and has committed to transition its entire commercial fleet to electric by 2025.

However, British Gas’s parent company, Centrica, has just signed a memorandum of understanding with Ryze Hydrogen to jointly build and operate green hydrogen production facilities to supply transport and industry sectors. Their objective is to kickstart the UK’s hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen fleet possibilities

A statement from the partners said, “Among the initial projects under consideration, Centrica and Ryze will examine solutions for converting some of the British Gas fleet to hydrogen, including refuelling infrastructure, locations and van technology.”

Rob Simister, Head of Fleet Operations for Centrica, said: “We remain committed to a zero emissions fleet. Currently this will only be achieved by electrification, and we’re open to whether that is accomplished via fuel cell or battery. What’s apparent is that for some of our larger vehicles, having a choice of technologies and fuel types would make our zero emission targets much easier to realise. Unfortunately, hydrogen powered vehicle availability remains a challenge in the UK, so unlocking this is vital.”  

Hydrogen vans

In October, Stellantis announced that it would scale up production of hydrogen fuel cell versions of the Peugeot Expert, Citroën Jumpy and Opel Vivaro light commercial vehicles to an industrial level, with plans to have a manufacturing capacity of 5,000 vehicles per year.

Speaking at the Fleet Europe Summit in Dublin, Uwe Hochgeschurtz, COO, Stellantis, said that while the next two decades will be dedicated to battery electric vehicles, historically there has never just been one dominant source of energy for vehicles.

“Why shouldn’t we have different energies competing?” he asked.

“As of today, hydrogen does not make sense for a passenger car because its efficiency is very low – down to 23% to 25% – it’s very expensive, and it’s not very easy to produce. But new technology always starts like this and the situation could switch very quickly. For heavy trucks or light commercial vehicles there could be some good arguments for using hydrogen. For example, if you drive your vehicle every hour of the day and you need to recharge it in three to four minutes, you can do that with hydrogen.”

Hochgeschurtz cited an example he had seen in Switzerland where a hydrogen filling station was located close to a hydrogen production facility, providing a reliable local solution for light and heavy commercial vehicles.

“Maybe beyond 2040 or 2050 could be the time for hydrogen,” he said. “We will continue our research into it and hopefully remain the number one manufacturer of hydrogen LCVs, because you always have to think about the next technology.”

Authored by: Jonathan Manning