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Hydrogen as a road fuel is in its first steps to becoming commercially available in the UK. Hydrogen can be used to power a vehicle by burning it in an internal combustion engine (ICE) or to generate electricity through a Fuel Cell.

Currently commercially available vans use hydrogen in an ICE. The hydrogen is  used in a similar way to CNG and LPG, with the hydrogen being compressed  and stored in on-board tanks and used in combination with petrol or diesel to power the vehicle. These are known as Hydrogen ICED (Internal Combustion Engine Diesel) Hybrids.

Fuel Cells  generate power using hydrogen fuel to generate electricity to drive the vehicle (known as FCEV). The Symbio FCell is the first FCEV to be developed There are a number of different car and bus models currently available in the UK. However there are no van models commercially available to date.

Fit for Purpose

  • Hydrogen ICED vans operate almost identically to conventional diesel vans with medium operational ranges.
  • Payload is slightly reduced due to hydrogen storage tanks, though load space should not be affected.
  • There are currently 13 hydrogen refuelling stations across the UK, with 2 more in the planning stages, limiting operation range on hydrogen to refuelling station proximity.

Operational performance

  • The Ford Transit conversion by ULEMCo has demonstrated a range of 180-200 miles on hydrogen (ULEMCo, 2014). If the hydrogen runs out, the vehicle will run on diesel as a conventional vehicle.

Environmental performance

  • When hydrogen is burnt, only water is released, making hydrogen potentially the cleanest road transport fuel available. However, when burnt in conjunction with (even) small amounts of fossil fuel in an ICE, high temperatures can result in NOx emissions being produced, along with very small amounts of hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide. However, its tailpipe emissions will still be much lower than a conventional diesel van - ULEMCo duel fuel Ford Transit conversion produced 40% less nitrous oxide than a conventional diesel van .
  • Another crucial element is how the hydrogen is produced. The full life-cycle carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of hydrogen can be very low, if it is made from renewable electricity, as in the case of the fuel produced at the H2 Aberdeen project. Hydrogen produced from industrial processes using grid electricity can have a very high carbon intensity and be equal to and even worse than conventional diesel vans.

Market Status

The hydrogen van market is very much in its infancy, however a number of new models have been released as supporting infrastructure is commissioned across the UK, with the most recent publicly accessible refuelling station opening near Sheffield where the hydrogen is generated using wind generated electricity.

  • ULEMCO Conversion: Hydrogen-Diesel ICED Van

ULEMCO perform a range of conversions of traditional commercial vehicles (1.8-3.5 tes LCV , 4*4 and Rigid HGV) to run as both hydrogen and diesel, known as dual -fuel vehicles. The Ford Transit conversion provides 70% reduction of carbon emission compared with a conventional diesel and a 200 mile hydrogen range.
  • HyKangoo Z.E. with FC Range Extender

Symbio FCell have taken the steps to address range anxiety of EVs by combining the Kangoo's pure battery system with a hydrogen fuel cell. This provides the vehicle with an additional 200 miles on top of the 100 miles battery range, with a payload of 550kg.