Smith Electric Vehicles is building a prototype that supplements the battery power with a hydrogen fuel cell, which Smith claims will result in the world’s first hybrid truck with zero tailpipe emissions.
Doug MacAndrew, technical director at Smith Electric Vehicles, said: “This electric-dominant hydrogen hybrid is one of several opportunities we are exploring in order to deliver enhanced vehicle performance to our fleet customers, while still delivering zero tailpipe emissions.”
Presently, most hybrid trucks use a diesel engine for trunk roads, switching to battery power for the last few miles of the journey.
The Smith Newton uses pure battery power to propel it up to 120 miles (192km) on a single charge. This makes it ideal for operations such as city centre deliveries, airports and street or building maintenance.
Adding an onboard hydrogen fuel cell to recharge the batteries offers the potential to increase the electric truck’s daily range, without creating any exhaust emissions. This additional flexibility would make ultra-low carbon trucks much more attractive to fleet operators.
In February 2010, Smith Electric signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with fuel cell experts Proton Power Systems plc, based in Germany. The two companies have already produced a prototype hybrid light commercial vehicle, using the Smith Edison platform and Proton PM 200 fuel cell.
“The Proton Power technology works extremely well, but packaging it into the available space on our Edison proved quite challenging,” explained MacAndrew. “As a much larger vehicle, the Smith Newton offers us better options for integrating the fuel cell into our existing EV infrastructure.”
Along with replenishing the traction batteries, the fuel cell supports auxiliary vehicle functions and provides an on-board electrical supply, which improves ease of maintenance.