Commercial delivery vans are, in many ways, an ideal place for battery electric powertrains. Many operate locally with relatively short distances, thus not necessitating a monster battery, and they return to the same place each night, ready to recharge for the next day. But that’s certainly not all delivery vans. There are cases where additional range, additional equipment and additional load capacity are necessary, and batteries might be a problem. So Ford is looking at how to address that with a small set of hydrogen fuel cell E-Transits to test in the U.K.
Ford lays out the reasons the fuel cell would be useful nicely: “This may benefit operators with heavy-duty use cases including long-distance transportation, maximum loads, ancillary equipment such as chillers, and those with limited charging opportunities in the working shift.”
That maximum load aspect comes into play with battery weight. Batteries are heavy, and if you need more for longer range, it just gets worse, and as the battery weight increases, the payload decreases. If you’re delivering heavy products, that’s a problem, especially if it’s over long distances. And of course if you need faster fueling or have other equipment pulling from the battery, having a fuel cell is helpful.
Unfortunately, Ford hasn’t really given any specifications on its fuel cell test vans, other than that it has a fuel cell stack for electricity and a tank for the hydrogen. Presumably, the actual drive motor is the same 266 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. It’s not clear if the same 126-mile battery pack is still used, or if a smaller one is used to reduce weight.
We do know the companies working with Ford on development. BP is heading up hydrogen infrastructure and production, Cambustion worked on the fuel cell system, Viritech worked on hydrogen storage, and Cygnet Texkimp manufactured the carbon fiber hydrogen storage tanks.
Ford has eight of these vans that it will be testing over the next three years. That stretch will be broken up into six-month testing periods. Ford didn’t state whether it has plans yet to put fuel-cell E-Transits into production yet.