Hydrogen to the fore as van fleets flag up electric problems

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27th February 2024

Fleet professionals consider hydrogen for vans due to electric vehicle issues, with interest sparked by the Vauxhall Vivaro-e Hydrogen van.


The Association of Fleet Professionals has flagged up so many problems running electric vans that it says some members are now taking a serious look at hydrogen as a zero-emission fuel option.

The issues they have include the range and payloads of the currently available vans, while poor towing ability is also a concern. The development which has sparked the renewed interest in the fuel is the forthcoming arrival of the Vauxhall Vivaro-e Hydrogen van in the UK, which offers a 249-mile range, the ability to be refuelled in three minutes and a price of just over £32,000. Elsewhere, Wales and West Utilities has announced it will begin trials with First Hydrogen’s fuel-cell van before the end of the month.


Paul Hollick, chair of AFP, said: “Ever since I’ve been involved in the fleet industry, hydrogen has been the ‘five years from now’ solution for zero emissions. Historically, it has never been quite ready for adoption and the promise it represents of almost compromise-free travel never quite materialises. Now, however, we are seeing a handful of fleet managers – all van operators – starting to take hydrogen seriously. That doesn’t mean that the many complications surrounding hydrogen have gone away. For example, clean production of the fuel – known as green hydrogen – remains expensive, while there are probably fewer than 15 public stations across the UK. These facts in themselves present fleets with some very real, day-to-day problems to solve”.


Critics of hydrogen point to its weaknesses, which include a lack of refuelling infrastructure and the high cost of producing green hydrogen. The lack of places to refuel could require fleets to construct their own hydrogen bunkering facilities to ensure supply, said Hollick. In order for hydrogen to become a serious national option in the UK, it needs substantial government backing similar to the kind seen in Germany, he added.


He said:


“That means both support for the purchase of new vehicles and the creation of a viable national network of green hydrogen stationsOur view is that when it comes to early adoption, as with electric vehicles, production availability and technology tends to follow the places where there are incentives. However, that just doesn’t look like it’s happening in the UK in any meaningful way, certainly under the current government”


Opel Vivaro-e Hydrogen (2021)


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