United Kingdom-based gas distribution network Wales & West Utilities (WWU) will begin trials of First Hydrogen Corporation’s hydrogen fuel cell powered light commercial vehicle (FCEV). First Hydrogen’s FCEV will operate from WWU’s Swansea depot, as part of the business’s 1,300-vehicle fleet deployed across Wales and southwest England.
The FCEV will support network engineers to make customer callouts and undertake repair and maintenance work. The trial will showcase First Hydrogen’s FCEV advantage over battery electric vehicles in range (630 km/400 miles), payload towing and fast refueling capabilities.
The FCEV is the first of its kind to be deployed in Wales and supported by green hydrogen producer Protium Green Solutions and hydrogen services company Hyppo Hydrogen Solutions, which will help develop a hydrogen ecosystem to support WWU’s operations.
WWU provides gas supply and connections to more than 7.5 million customers in Wales and southwest England. The gas distribution network is committed to developing cleaner and greener energy solutions and has recently announced a proposal to develop a major hydrogen pipeline across South Wales.
Until now, First Hydrogen’s FCEV trials have been located near existing hydrogen fuel stations. This trial will demonstrate how partnerships can develop refueling in areas that lack infrastructure. Using Hyppo’s mobile refueling service and green H2 fuel from Protium enables WWU to refuel close to its depot in Swansea rather than traveling to a public station.
Green hydrogen supplied from Protium’s Pioneer 1 site in Wales is produced by electrolysis using renewable power. Pioneer 1 has been operational since early 2023, and the hydrogen it produces has already been used in several transport trials. Protium will have Pioneer 2 — a second, significantly larger electrolyzer — operational later in 2024 to meet the growing demand for green hydrogen in Wales.
“We’re delighted to be working with Wales & West Utilities and not only trial the vehicles in Wales but also form partnerships that will establish a local hydrogen ecosystem,” says Steve Gill, head of Automotive at First Hydrogen. “The Wales & West Utilities team are hugely supportive of our vehicle development and share our belief that hydrogen could help deliver carbon-free transport. Particularly for fleets that require longer uptime, longer range and heavier payloads than BEVs can offer as well as towing capacity — 75% of Wales & West Utilities’ fleet are equipped to tow, yet few BEVs have suitable capability. Hydrogen is high on WWU’s corporate agenda, through laying pipelines and upgrading the network in preparation for transitioning, and it is exciting to see that the whole company is engaged with our trial.”
“We are confident that hydrogen will play a fundamental role in delivering low-cost green energy as we move away from fossil fuels,” says Stephen Offley, WWU transport manager. “Hydrogen can be produced from renewables in the UK, as Protium is already demonstrating, and supplied through many of the gas pipelines that we already use. We are already paving the way for the role of hydrogen in heating homes and powering industry so using hydrogen fuel to decarbonize our fleets is a logical step. Having test-driven the vans at First Hydrogen’s track event last year, we’re looking forward to trialing the FCEV in our day-to-day operations and pioneering the use of hydrogen within our fleet.”
“This trial with Wales & West Utilities is an excellent opportunity to showcase the capability of green hydrogen, produced renewably by electrolysis, in fleet operations,” adds Will Stinton, director of Asset Management at Protium. “Our experience in supporting transport trials has shown us that fuel cell vehicles have an important role to play in meeting zero emission targets — it is fantastic to work with an organization like Wales & West Utilities to explore how FCEVs can decarbonize their operation.”
“This trial brings together the entire hydrogen value chain and is a testament to the power of working in partnership,” says Chris Foxall, Hyppo’s CEO. “Hyppo is already a fleet operator of fuel cell vehicles and is delighted to see the benefits of First Hydrogen’s FCEV first-hand and to assist Wales and West Utilities with its move toward hydrogen transport.”