The aim of the trial is to understand the benefits of hydrogen in comparison to fossil fuels, particularly for SSE’s growing fleet of electric engineering and maintenance vehicles.
The trial has been launched following SSE’s announcement last month, and it provides an opportunity for the company to assess the performance of hydrogen alongside its existing electric vehicles. The hydrogen-powered van, classified as a light commercial vehicle (LCV), has been stationed at one of SSE’s sites in Aberdeen, conveniently located next to a hydrogen fuel station.
To familiarize themselves with the hydrogen-powered vehicle, four SSE drivers underwent two days of training before using the van for their day-to-day tasks, which involve carrying essential equipment and tools. The drivers have expressed their satisfaction with the van’s driving experience, describing it as smoother than their diesel vehicles. Not only does the zero-emission van contribute to reducing SSE’s environmental impact, but it also performs well in city driving conditions and recharges its battery during use, resulting in an impressive range.
SSE is one of the largest fleet operators in the UK and has already made a commitment to transition 2,500 of its vehicles to electric power while installing charging points for its 11,000 employees. The company’s vehicles are employed in various operational roles and diverse environments, including maintaining the electricity network across central southern England and the north of Scotland, as well as navigating challenging environments at hydro and onshore wind farm sites.
Compared to equivalent battery electric vehicles (BEVs), First Hydrogen’s fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) offers a longer range on a single tank of fuel and can carry heavier loads without compromising its range. Additionally, the FCEV benefits from faster refueling, taking approximately five minutes compared to the five hours required for BEV charging. This not only reduces downtime but also ensures the vehicle remains operational for longer periods.
Throughout the trial, the hydrogen-powered van will be closely monitored using onboard instruments. This will provide valuable data on fuel consumption, mileage, and vehicle performance in different conditions. Real-time tracking of the vehicle’s use, location, and status will help ensure driver and vehicle safety.
Ronnie Fleming, SSE’s chief procurement officer, emphasizes the company’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions and its pledge to electrify its fleet. Exploring all alternative fuel options is a key part of this commitment, and the trial offers SSE an opportunity to evaluate the role of hydrogen vehicles in their future fleets, contingent upon further infrastructure development.
Steve Gill, CEO for First Hydrogen Automotive, envisions a future in which zero-emission transportation comprises a mix of technologies suited to different vehicle types and usage. He commends Aberdeen for its efforts in promoting hydrogen use and establishing the necessary infrastructure. Trialing the hydrogen-powered van in the north-east of Scotland allows for a comparison of its operational performance with that of BEVs, particularly in scenarios where BEVs are currently used. The data collected during the trial will help optimize the vehicle, demonstrate its capabilities to potential customers, and inform future development efforts.