SSE team refuelling the First Hydrogen vehicle at the BOC Kittybrewster fuel station in Aberdeen

SSE team refuelling the First Hydrogen vehicle at the BOC Kittybrewster fuel station in Aberdeen

Road trials of First Hydrogen’s zero-emission van suggest a range of 630km on a full tank of hydrogen and better than expected performance.

Energy firm SSE carried out a month-long trial predominantly using the van in major roads in the Aberdeen area. Light traffic conditions in the region enabled the vehicle to run at maximum speed limits for longer periods than it had done previously, and even when running at consistently higher speeds the vehicle was consuming an average of 1.58kg H2/100m, indicating a range capability of over 630km.

First Hydrogen’s vehicle is a hybrid and can supplement fuel consumption with battery power when driving includes frequent shifts between acceleration and braking. During most of the journeys undertaken, the van maintained its battery at maximum charge by regenerating from braking. According to First Hydrogen, this data suggests that overall vehicle performance is even better than expected, as it exceeds the results set in pre-trial commissioning tests, especially when driven at constant speed as less braking and accelerating means less fuel is consumed.

For several journeys during the trial the van drove fully loaded one way and was part loaded on the return. However, the drivers noted that heavier loads did not noticeably decrease vehicle speed, reduce vehicle range, or affect fuel cell performance.

Due to refurbishment of Aberdeen’s hydrogen refuelling stations during the trial period, drivers had to refuel First Hydrogen’s van at 350 bar rather than the preferred 700 bar pressure fill. Nonetheless, the vehicle continued to successfully execute the longer routes SSE undertook, which First Hydrogen said demonstrates it is compatible with existing infrastructure.

In 2019 SSE plc committed to transitioning over 3,000 fleet vehicles to electric by 2023, and already it has more than 1,100 full EVs in its fleet.

Simon Gray, head of fleet services at SSE, commented: “SSE is focused on enabling, harnessing and deploying new technologies and innovations which can accelerate the journey to net zero. This trial period in Aberdeen has provided us with real-world insights into the performance of a hydrogen vehicle, a level of understanding that just isn’t possible from test data alone. By gaining firsthand knowledge of the van’s use in day-to-day scenarios, the feedback from this trial will be invaluable when considering if hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles could fit into our fleets of the future.”

Steve Gill, CEO of First Hydrogen Automotive, said: “Working with such an enthusiastic team at SSE meant we were able to undertake different routes and see the vehicle perform in driving conditions it has not experienced before. We are thrilled with these initial results, which are helping us to build a true picture of the vehicle’s capabilities. The trial data shows efficient performance from the fuel cell and suggests that heavier payloads and consistent driving at higher speeds do little to diminish range.

“We have welcomed SSE’s enthusiasm for the trial and how receptive the team is to innovation, especially in the net zero space. The strength of this partnership means we are exploring opportunities to return to Scotland for a winter trial to test the vehicle’s performance in colder temperatures where hydrogen is expected to offer advantages over other zero emission technologies.”