UPS reveals world’s first hydrogen-electric fuel cell delivery van

10 May 2017

Delivery company UPS has unveiled the world’s first hydrogen-electric delivery truck ahead of its plan to deploy a fleet of 17 fuel-cell vans in 2018.

The first vehicle, revealed at the 2017 Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in California, will go into service later this year delivering parcels for state government offices in Sacramento, California.

Developed as part of a £8-million federal Department of Energy program, UPS has a corporate policy of promoting alternative fuels and advanced powertrains to help reduce the environmental impact of its fleet.

The state of California is a keen promoter of hydrogen fuel cell technology and it helped to fund the van development program as well as a state-wide hydrogen fueling infrastructure to service fuel cell vehicles.

The UPS vans will be hand-built and they will incorporate a fuel cell and electric powertrain system that includes the fuel cell itself, an off-the-shelf 31kw motor as well as a pair of 5kg high-pressure hydrogen tanks and a 45-kw-hour lithium-ion battery pack that will store and release the electricity produced in the fuel cell.

Hydrogen fuel cells require a constant source of fuel and oxygen to create electricity and emit only water. Hydrogen tanks require a similar amount of time to refill as a traditional liquid fuel tank, eliminating the recharging times required by battery-dependent electric vehicles.

UPS will use publicly available hydrogen stations in the area but if the trucks work well the parcel delivery company is looking to incorporate its own hydrogen stations within its fleet depots.

The first phase of the project, including development of the initial van, will cost £2.8 million. The trial will assess how well the fuel cell vans do in improving air quality in the neighbourhoods it serves.

These new delivery vans are one of several new initiatives to increase the use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles taking place in California.

One of the state’s bus service providers, SunLine Transit, will receive a £9.6 million grant from the state to fund five new zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell buses and upgrades to the agency’s existing hydrogen production plant.

This project represents one of the largest single deployments of fuel cell buses in the nation and it follows a joint initiative to add 20 new fuel cell buses to local fleets with half in southern California and half in the San Francisco Bay Area. That project by the Orange County and Alameda-Contra Costa county transit agencies, announced in February, received £19.3 million in state and local grants.

The two projects will almost double the number of fuel cell buses in use throughout the U.S.