Fuel-cell postal vans

Royal Mail has joined forces with a number of major European postal and energy associations to speed up the development of hydrogen-fuel-cell postal vans.

Working alongside postal group PostEurop and green vehicle experts FuelCellEurope and CENEX, Royal Mail intends to drive down the cost of fuel-cell technology by introducing a universal design that will eventually be rolled out to postal services across Europe.

According to Chris Walsh, CENEX’s technical specialist, the UK is in a strong position to lead this change. He told The Engineer that the UK has a good capability base in fuel-cell technology and that the development of this specification represents a significant opportunity for companies in this sector.

He added that, while vehicles and hybrid architecture are already commercialised, volume deployment of fuel cells has not been achieved. By signalling a real demand for fuel-cell-powered vehicles, this project will draw forward automotive fuel-cell development, addressing challenges related to cost, power density, durability and hydrogen storage.

Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, with water and heat as their only by-product. In addition to being efficient, their relatively low-power ratings are suitable for use in small and medium urban vehicles.

Royal Mail is the first organisation in Europe to deploy a fuel-cell postal van, supported by two hydrogen combustion vans. Other European original equipment manufacturers have demonstrated fuel-cell vehicles. According to Walsh, however, this will be among the first examples of a demand-led project.

Once the design specification is complete, Royal Mail intends to collaborate with other European postal services for input before the brief is presented to vehicle manufacturers for consideration.

Ellie Zolfagharifard