The new government that the UK is likely to see in 2024 should be pressured by fleets to deliver a more effective hydrogen van strategy, FleetCheck says.
Peter Golding, managing director at the fleet software specialist, said there was huge potential for hydrogen as a factor in future fleet zero emissions strategies for light commercial vehicles, and much more needed to be done to support its adoption.
“This is not a political comment but we will get a new government this year or early in 2025, and the polls show that it is very unlikely to be the same as the current administration. That moment will provide an opportunity for change.
“The truth is that one of the victories that this government can claim over the last few years is the rate of electrification by car fleets. Their taxation strategy and other measures means that the average company car is now very likely to be an EV.
“However, it has been a zero emissions all-eggs-in-one-basket approach concentrating on EVs and, while there is some support for hydrogen in their planning, it is pretty limited, and there is almost nothing that looks at the potential for van fleets.
‘The hydrogen refuelling infrastructure that exists across the UK, for example, is almost non-existent. There are plans to build 40 or so stations in support of truck and bus operators but the whole approach is very much based on larger commercial vehicles and buses.
“This is an issue because many van fleets are discovering very real limits to electrification when it comes to range and payload, and hydrogen is a potential zero emissions alternative with real promise.”
Peter said that the issue was being highlighted by the arrival in the UK of the Vauxhall Vivaro hydrogen van, which promised pump-style fuelling, a range of around 250 miles, and could be potentially purchased at prices competitive to electric vans.
“This appears to be a practical zero emissions solution for van fleets but it is very much a vehicle in search of an infrastructure. Unless you are willing and capable of putting your own hydrogen depot refuelling in place, it’s very difficult impossible to adopt.
“Any future government should be pressured by fleets to provide infrastructure for these vehicles, while ensuring that the price of hydrogen is competitive with other fuel sources. In truth, the refuelling network doesn’t need to be huge in the first instance, but it needs to be reliable and in the right places, such as motorway services.
“A scheme to put say 200 hydrogen stations in place across the UK in the next couple of years would make an enormous difference to the viability of vehicles like the Vivaro and others that could follow. For fleets that are struggling with electric van adoption, a future government that is willing to back hydrogen could make a massive difference.
“Of course, even if the government doesn’t change, a general election is a moment for a strategic rethink and our industry should then try to work again in this area with the current administration. Hydrogen simply looks as though it will solve a number of problems for fleets in cases where there are no easy answers for electric power.”