Friday, 14 October 2016
UK’s first ‘serious’ hydrogen fleet bows
Arval has become a leading partner in one of the UK’s largest hydrogen fleet car trials to date.
It is taking part in the Hydrogen Hub initiative, which will see fuel cell technology used in a wide range of domestic, commercial and transport applications in Swindon, where Arval’s UK head office is based. Arval claims to be a leading vehicle leasing and fleet management provider to companies of all sizes,
Arval has been named as chair of the Car Working Group, and will be central to a range of projects designed to look at the practicalities of operating hydrogen vehicles.
Initially, two vehicles will be leased to local companies by Arval, subsidised by the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles. These are a Hyundai ix35h for the National Trust, and a Toyota Mirai for Nationwide Building Society.
Arval will also be taking delivery of a Mirai (above) to operate as part of its own company fleet. There are a number of other vehicles being delivered to local companies as part of a linked bid structure to which Arval will provide management support.
There is already one public hydrogen fuelling centre in Swindon and plans are in place to open another early in 2017.
Paul Marchment, SME development manager at Arval UK, said: “This is the UK’s first serious hydrogen fleet car trial and we are very pleased to take pole position in its development. Many commentators believe that the long term solution to UK transport will be fuel cell-based and we are very keen to gain a wide range of operational knowledge.”
Marchment added: “The first cars should be with their users by the end of this year and have been subsidised to a level that makes them cost comparable with a normal company model. As part of this arrangement, they will cover a minimum annual mileage of 10-15,000 miles over their three-year lease, and we will gather as much data as possible through our in-vehicle telematics service which will in turn help us to advise our customers in the future.”
The Hydrogen Hub initiative aims to have a total of 11 company-run fuel cell cars operational in Swindon by the end of this year and 50 by the end of 2017.
There will also be trials of fuel cell forklift trucks, buses and combined heat and power units for both commercial and domestic use. Marchment continued: “Altogether, there will be quite a number of companies in Swindon using fuel cell technology in different ways. One of the most interesting for us is that our local Hyundai and Toyota dealers have taken on the capability of servicing hydrogen cars.
“Having dealers familiar with fuel cell cars operating close at hand will mean that we are able to gain an intimate and detailed picture of how these vehicles are standing up to real world driving conditions.”
Marchment claimed recent findings from Arval’s own Corporate Vehicle Observatory Barometer research, showed 26 per cent of fleets would like to operate a hydrogen car within the next three years.
“There is clearly a lot of interest in this area. Our view of this is that we want to learn as much as possible and are also planning to share a large part of our findings with customers and the wider industry,” he concluded.
According to Toyota, the Mirai delivers “everything expected from a next-generation car: an immediately recognisable design; driving exhilaration stemming from superior handling stability achieved by a low centre of gravity; and quiet but powerful acceleration provided by the electric motor.”
Mirai features the TFCS, a fusion of fuel cell technology with hybrid technology. The system uses Toyota-developed components including the Toyota FC Stack, FC boost converter, and high-pressure hydrogen tanks.
The Toyota FC Stack (below) achieves a maximum output of 114 kW (155 DIN hp) and what Toyota claims as “a world-leading power output density” of 3.1 kW/litre (2.2 times higher than that of the previous Toyota FCHV-adv limited-lease model).
A compact, high-efficiency, high-capacity converter has been developed to boost power generated in the Toyota FC Stack to 650 volts. Increasing the voltage has made it possible to reduce the size of the electric motor and the number of Toyota FC Stack fuel cells, leading to a smaller, higher-performance Toyota Fuel Cell System, thereby reducing system costs.
One possible downside of such cars is the requirement for a high-pressure fuel tank – the other is the availability (at present) of ‘fuel’.
Tanks with a three-layer structure made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic and other materials are used to store hydrogen at the very high pressure of 70 MPa (70 megapascals, or approximately 700 bar or 10,290 lbf/ins).
Compared to the high-pressure hydrogen tanks used in the Toyota FCHV-adv model, tank storage has been increased by approximately 20 per cent.