A high-performance panel van is set to show fleet operators how they could save money with vehicles running on hydrogen.
The 2.3-litre supercharged Ford Transit has been built to promote breakthrough technology to allow businesses and utilities generate their own alternative to traditional fuels.
Developed by Roush Technologies, the Transit will take to the road next month to prove how a new ‘home hydrogen station’ finally makes on-site refuelling viable for back-to-base transport operations.
The Essex automotive engineering specialist has joined forces with ITM Power, the Cambridge firm that has pioneered the station - an electrolyser claimed to dramatically cut the cost of manufacturing the zero-emission gas.
“All you need is water and a standard electricity supply and you’re away. It might sound simple, but I believe this has implications for the whole energy industry and the potential of being regarded as one of the great advances of the last 200 years.
“Batteries have their limitations and this technology is a step beyond battery capability.
"When it reaches production, the electrolyser will cost a few thousand pounds compared with the $2 to $3 million price of current commercial refuelling stations,” said ITM chief executive Jim Heathcote.
“We will be going with Roush to any company that’s interested in having a clean fleet.
"Commercial operators should be able to recoup the outlay very quickly - they’ll avoid CO2 duties and enjoy a lot of benefits.”
In an interview with Fleet News as the system was announced, Mr Heathcote said low volume meant early units would be expensive but added: “We already know they will be profitable and can be sold below the cost of existing units.
“Safety standards already exist in the US, where fuel cell vehicles are already in operation, so that market holds big opportunities.”
Rouch already has two Transits on order.
Said managing director John Mitchell: “We need cleaner city centres and our target is firms doing stop-start deliveries over fairly low mileages.”
Durability tests of prototype refuelling units from ITM’s Sheffield factory are already under way and the firm hopes to sign up its first commercial customers as soon as new UK operating codes are agreed.
Covered by global patents, ITM’s technology replaces platinum with a low-cost polymer and has attracted £41 million of investment since the company went public in 2002.