Gas distribution network Wales & West Utilities (WWU) is launching a one-month trial of a hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV).

The company is set to trial First Hydrogen’s FCEV, which has a range of more than 630km on a single refuelling as part of plans to transition its fleet from diesel-powered vans.

WWU is the gas emergency and pipeline service for Wales and the south west of England and operates 24 hours a day, year-round to deliver gas network services for more than 7.5 million customers.

The trials are taking place during winter, WWU’s busiest period for emergency gas call outs. Typically, cold temperatures can reduce the range for battery electric vehicles (BEVs), affecting reliability for fleet operators.

Depending on the weather over the next month, First Hydrogen said the trials could also generate data to indicate the FCEV’s advantage over BEVs in lower temperatures.

The trials commenced with training for WWU’s drivers, enabling them to safely operate the vehicle and understand its technical differences.

While completing First Hydrogen’s driver training accreditation scheme, WWU’s drivers performed manoeuvres with the vehicle and completed a call out to a customer’s residence.

The drivers also practised refuelling the vehicle with green hydrogen, supplied by Protium Green Solutions, at Hyppo Hydrogen Solutions’ refuelling unit. Both organisations have helped to develop a hydrogen ecosystem to support First Hydrogen’s trial with WWU.

Steve Gill, First Hydrogen executive director automotive, said: “It is great to see Wales & West Utilities’ enthusiasm to start trials and we are eager for them to test the vehicle within routine fleet operations.

”Our FCEV has clear benefits for utility businesses, such as WWU, and we’re keen to generate performance data during the trial that will further demonstrate how our vehicles can help decarbonise similar fleets while meeting everyday operational demands.

“This trial also pilots a hydrogen-as-a-service model to show operators how practically we can support their transition to FCEV fleets. With the support of Protium and Hyppo Hydrogen Solutions, we are building a green hydrogen fuel ecosystem for WWU, who are based in an area without access to fixed refuelling infrastructure.”

Stephen Offley, Wales & West Utilities transport manager, added: ”We are delighted to begin testing First Hydrogen’s vehicle in a front-line role and to experience the benefits of a hydrogen-powered vehicle within our fleet.

“The current light commercial electric vehicle market does not offer a full solution for the operational needs of WWU and similar businesses.

”Current battery electric vehicles do not provide the range, fast recharging time, payload capacity and towing ability we require. They are also unsuitable for the installation of ‘on board power’ to power pneumatic equipment and high-current electric tools on site, which is critical for the operation of our network.

”Lack of suitable recharging infrastructure also poses a challenge. We see hydrogen-powered vehicles, such as First Hydrogen’s FCEV as the potential zero emission solution that will meet our fleet’s future needs.”

Jon Constable, COO of Protium, said: “Completing driver training and getting the First Hydrogen vehicle on the road is an exciting time for the Wales & West Utilities team and the wider collaboration.

”Demonstrating FCEVs in roles to which they are well suited, like fleet operations, is a key part of how we accelerate hydrogen deployment to meet our zero emission targets.

”It is always thrilling to see our green hydrogen, produced by electrolysis using renewable electricity, in use in the field. The next month will generate some fantastic data and we hope it will inspire other fleet operators to consider hydrogen.”

Chris Foxall, Hyppo Hydrogen Solution chief executive, commented: “From my perspective this trial is not only demonstrating the readiness level of the hydrogen technology available today, but also how we’re leveraging so many companies to deliver a bespoke solution which can be scaled and repeated.”