Ford to Trial a Hydrogen Energy Source for Transit Vans

09th May 2023

By Chris Russon

Ford Hydrogen Transit Van Front Ford Hydrogen Transit Van Rear
Ford Hydrogen Transit Van Front Ford Hydrogen Transit Van Rear

Ford is carrying out research into the potential for hydrogen as an on-board energy source for its E-Transit van.

The project will establish if hydrogen fuel cell technology can deliver more zero-emission range to heavy-use E-Transit customers travelling high mileages, with maximum loads, ancillary equipment such as chillers and with limited charging opportunities in the working shift.

Part funded by the Advanced Propulsion Centre, Ford’s consortium of six automotive technology leaders and fleet operator partners will help to determine the supporting hydrogen refuelling infrastructure required.

Ford Pro, the company’s commercial vehicle and services division, will use the pilot to expand its conversion expertise, supported by engineers and E-Transit specialists from Dagenham and the company’s nearby Dunton Technical Centre, in Essex.

Tim Slatter, chairman of Ford in Britain, said: “Ford believes that the primary application of fuel cells could be in its largest, heaviest CVs to ensure they are emission-free, while satisfying the high daily energy requirements our customers demand.”

“Ford has an unmatched history in the commercial vehicle sector with the indomitable Transit, and we are excited to be exploring new ways to make clean deliveries an option for even our hardest working vans on the road.”

Ford’s hydrogen fuel cell E-Transit project with the APC will validate the vehicle’s business case by linking Ford expertise as a 57-year UK van market leader with fuel cell powertrain experts and fleet operators including Ocado Retail.

Other partners on the project are BP, capturing hydrogen usage and infrastructure requirements, Cambustion, testing the fuel cell system, Viritech, designing hydrogen storage systems and Cygnet Texkimp, providing the pressure vessels’ carbon fibre tooling.

Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity by combining hydrogen from an onboard tank with oxygen, with resulting zero emissions, extended range and quicker refuelling.

Ford has researched fuel cell technology since the 1990s, developing many prototypes.

A low-volume test fleet of eight fuel cell Ford E-Transits will run for six-month periods over the three-year project to 2025.

Test fleet data will provide insights into the total cost of owning and operating a large van, with increased range and operating hours to match its diesel-powered equivalent and without the need to charge.

The prototype Ford E-Transits will be fitted with a high-power fuel cell stack, in conjunction with significant hydrogen storage capability, optimised for safety, capacity, cost, and weight.