Zero emissions automotive developer, First Hydrogen saw 21 UK fleet operators and industry specialists test drive its bespoke hydrogen fuel cell-powered light commercial vehicles (LCV) at the HORIBA MIRA proving ground near Coventry.

Attendees included fleet managers from the grocery sector with participants from Asda and Sainsbury’s, parcel delivery company DPD, NHS England, VINCI Group, mining organisation Anglo American, and Network Rail. Several utilities providers including Wales & West Utilities, Northern Gas Networks, SGN & National Gas were also present.

The track day also drew interest from vehicle leasing and rental companies, with ARVAL (BNP Paribas Group), Novuna, and Redde Northgate attending, along with British motor trades residual value experts, Glass’s Guide.

Also joining the event were representatives from Brit European Transport, National Windscreens and the Canal & River Trust. Participating fleets operate more than half-million vehicles.

The event gave operators a unique opportunity to get behind the wheel of a hydrogen fuel cell electric 3.5 tonne van (FCEV). 29 drivers each took the opportunity to drive on the MIRA track, simulating different duty-cycles and reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. Operators experienced the vehicles’ smooth handling and appreciated the quiet drive.

Drivers were also treated to a vehicle walk-round and under-the-hood viewing of First Hydrogen’s technology. The company’s partner, Ballard Power Systems, was present alongside First Hydrogen engineers to help attendees understand how the vehicles’ fuel cells work.

Participants asked searching questions about the viability of hydrogen mobility, the maturity of hydrogen infrastructure and were presented with a review of total costs of operation (TCO) based on First Hydrogen data collected from vehicles used during recent demo trials with UK fleets. First Hydrogen said participants were quick to understand the TCO outlook, the benefits of FCEVs and how they compare alongside other zero emission vehicle technology.

First Hydrogen’s road trials with fleet specialists Rivus and energy company SSE plc have demonstrated the range the vehicles have, with a peak range of more than 400 miles (630km) on a single fuelling achieved during journeys from Aberdeen.

The real-world operational trials also showed the minimal effect carrying heavy loads or driving at higher speeds had on vehicle range – crucial attributes for this vehicle class.

First Hydrogen

Source: First Hydrogen

Steve Gill, First Hydrogen Automotive chief executive, said: “We’re delighted with the high level of interest we have received from UK fleet operators about our FCEVs and this enthusiasm was clearly present at our first driving experience day.

“By engaging fleets in similar events, we are demonstrating our FCEV’s capabilities to an audience who are on the road to zero emissions and can see a role for First Hydrogen technology in achieving their targets. Their feedback will help us achieve buy-in from fleets, some of whom are likely to become our Development Partners, helping us shape our future business and ultimately becoming customers for our vehicles.”

“Stephen Offley, Wales & West Utilitie transport manager commented: “It was fantastic to see a hydrogen vehicle of this weight class in action. We already know that hydrogen power will be essential to meet the critical range, payload and towing capabilities required by public utilities and other users, which cannot be met by battery-electric vans. This experience shows that adoption could soon become a reality and will help operators to transition their whole fleets to zero emission technology.”