UPS is to trial a fleet of extended range Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) delivery trucks on California’s highways.

The trial, which is set to begin in Sacramento before the end of the year, is part of a project UPS is working on with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to design a first-of-its-kind, zero tailpipe emissions, Class 6 medium-duty delivery truck that can match the range of UPS’s existing conventional fuel vehicles.

Unlike fuel cell auxiliary power units, the FCEV vehicles will use an onboard fuel cell to generate electricity to propel the vehicle and will be tested on UPS routes for a minimum of 5,000 hours during the trial. The test vehicles will join UPS’ Rolling Laboratory fleet of alternative fuel vehicles.

Each FCEV produces electricity which continuously charges the batteries, providing additional power and an extended range of 125 miles. The UPS trucks are retrofitted with a 32kW fuel cell coupled to 45kWh of battery storage and 10kg of hydrogen fuel. The drive train runs on electricity supplied by batteries, which, unlike other fuel cell applications, will support the full duty cycle of the truck, including highway driving.

Announcing the project, UPS said it was “an important step toward demonstrating the commercial viability of zero tailpipe emissions trucks to fleet operators and the developing FCEV supply chain.”

Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president global engineering and sustainability, added: “The challenge we face with fuel cell technology is to ensure the design can meet the unique operational demands of our delivery vehicles on a commercial scale.

“This project is an essential step to test the zero tailpipe emissions technology and vehicle on the road for UPS and the transportation industry.

"We have a long history of developing and promoting the use of more sustainable alternative fuels with our Rolling Laboratory, and hope that by bringing our unique expertise to the development of hydrogen fuels, we can help advance the technology.”