Hydrogen vehicles getting legal status for UK roads – ‘important step’

Prince Charles drives futuristic hydrogen car in Wales

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More hydrogen vehicles have been given the go-ahead to operate on British roads by the Vehicle Certification Agency. First Hydrogen has announced that its first zero emission light commercial vehicle (LCV) has been certified legal and will undertake trials commencing in January 2023.

During the 24-month trial, the company expects to collect significant proprietary data from fleet owners and to capture high-level interest for future orders. 

The vans will be trialled in real-world conditions with major fleet operators and enable First Hydrogen to publicly showcase its leading design and accelerate the adoption by LCV owners of fuel cell-powered vehicles to replace ageing diesel fleets.

A total of 13 UK fleet operators in various industries including telecoms, utilities, infrastructure, delivery, grocery and healthcare have signed up to participate in the trials.

These two demonstrator vehicles will showcase the advantages fuel cell electric vehicles have over battery electric vehicles in terms of range and refuelling speed. 

First Hydrogen vehicles offer 400-600km of range on a single refuelling, which takes a matter of minutes.

Steve Gill, CEO of Automotive for First Hydrogen, said: “This is an important step which validates our engineering and technical expertise. 

“The whole team has worked hard to deliver this certification and we can now move forward with the important customer trials commencing in early 2023.”

Despite this, there are still concerns that the UK’s hydrogen infrastructure is not yet ready to accommodate a major vehicle shift to the fuel.

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According to H2 Mobility, the UK has just eight hydrogen refuelling sites, compared to the 10 found in the Netherlands, 12 in Switzerland and 95 in Germany.

The hydrogen map also shows that a number of countries are looking to implement and develop hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

There are plans to install another seven refuelling sites in Germany, eight in the Netherlands and eight in Poland.

The eight in the UK are strategically located along the major stretches of road, as seen with three in London, one in Birmingham, one in Sheffield and two more in Aberdeen.

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New sites are set to open shortly including Glasgow, Belfast, Tees Valley and Liverpool.

Motive Fuels announced in January that it intends to close hydrogen refuelling stations at Cobham, Gatwick and Swindon.

The Cobham site was closed in February, followed by Gatwick and Swindon in July.

A statement from the company said: “We recognise these closures will be disruptive for customers and apologise for that disruption.”

It added that the sites were not performing satisfactorily and the footprint available was too small to accommodate upgrades for larger vehicles and future technology.

The company had invested over £2million per year to sustain the small stations, but added the situation was not “sustainable”.

The statement continued, saying: “Motive intends to focus on larger stations and vehicle refuelling.

“The closure of these sites is a reflection of their small footprints from them being the first of a kind and prototypes which we have learned from allowing us to improve our future network.”

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