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Cheltenham business plays host to hydrogen fuel trials

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The Commercial Group will be using zero emission hydrogen vans to distribute supplies to its customers as part of a national trial.

The one week trial for Commercial is part of the ITM Power’s nationwide Hydrogen On Site Trial (HOST) programme, which was launched at Stansted Airport in 2011.

To date HOST has generated support from 22 companies, including DHL, Carillion, UPS, RAC and Tarmac, spanning seven different sectors.

ITM’s chief executive Graham Cooley said: “Commercial’s inclusion in the trial will highlight the very real use of hydrogen, today, inviting in a new era of carbon-free deliveries for office supplies, helping businesses reduce their supply-chain carbon impact, and improving air quality in the urban environment.

“ITM very much look forward to working with Commercial and to discussing the opportunities arising from the trial results.”

Over the five day period, Commercial is to run two HICE Transit vehicles, supplied by ITM, and use ITM's transportable high pressure refuelling unit (HFuel) which is to be located at In2Print – one of Commercial’s preferred suppliers.

HFuel makes hydrogen on site, using only water and electricity, and refills vehicles with the clean fuel in 5 minutes. There is no need for a fuel delivery, because the fuel is made at the point of use.

The vans will be used to deliver goods to customers throughout the region including Moog, St James’ Place and Supergroup, all of whom are situated within a 40mile radius of Cheltenham.

“We are currently exploring a number of low carbon vehicle options,” explained Simon Graham, environmental strategist for Commercial. “The opportunity to be part of HOST enables us to see first-hand how hydrogen will work for the company and gain an invaluable insight into the benefits this particular technology has to offer.”

Commercial has run its 60-strong fleet on sustainable biodiesel for the past six years and hopes that the results of this particular trial will show a greener, more flexible fuel option that will, if taken up by the company, further reduce the environmental impact of its deliveries.

“Our award-winning biodiesel system has been a huge success,” continued Graham, “and is one of the main reasons we have been able to reduce our van emissions by 78%. To reduce our emissions further we need to look at alternative low carbon fuels.

“What were emerging technologies in 2005 are now becoming commercially viable and we will be exploring a number of them to see which fits our business best.”

The hydrogen trial is the first of many low carbon fuel trials that Commercial will be implementing over the next eight weeks.

“As well as hydrogen, we are looking at biomethane, hybrid and range extended electric vehicles,” continues Graham who believes that all will reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions but that each offer additional, and yet quite different, benefits.

“By using the vehicles in the real world, we will be able to see what is best for our operations and so make the necessary investments over the next five years. Being part of larger trials with expert partners means that this experience will be shared widely and help many other companies in their endeavours to manage cost and become more sustainable.”

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