Smith Electric Vehicles is trialling a fuel cell that could double the range of its battery-powered vans and trucks.
Electric commercial vehicles have a maximum range of around 100 miles (160km) which makes them ideal for low mileage urban operations. However, by adding a small hydrogen fuel cell as a range extender, the vehicles will be able to achieve closer to 200 miles (320km).
Kevin Harkin, sales director for Smith Electric Vehicles, said: “Utilising a fuel cell range extender opens up exciting new possibilities for our electric vans and trucks.
“Enhancing the range capabilities provides a wider application for electric vehicles within large fleets, without compromising our zero emission philosophy.”
The UK-based manufacturer has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with fuel cell experts Proton Power Systems plc in Germany.
Under the MoU, both parties will collaborate to build and market a battery-powered commercial vehicle, equipped with a Proton Power PM200 fuel cell as a range extender. The fuel cell is used to top-up the batteries and support auxiliary vehicle functions such as air conditioning and heating. The fuel cell also provides an on-board electrical supply, which improves ease of maintenance.
The partners will start with Smith’s Edison range of electric vans, which are currently in use with fleet operators such as Sainsbury’s Online, Scottish & Southern Energy, TNT and the Royal Mail.
The collaboration is initially focused on supplying vehicles to fleet operators across Germany and is already in discussions for 20 vans with the German Government-backed hydrogen and electric vehicle organisation Now. It also plans to address projects in the UK and North America.
Proton Power and Smith will present the first prototype at the Hannover Fair in April 2010. Thereafter, the partners plan to roll out the vehicle in transport and maintenance applications across German municipalities, with the first vehicles due to be delivered in the last quarter of 2010.