Smith Electric Trials Proton Fuel Cell Range-Extender

Adding a small hydrogen fuel cell as a range extender, the vehicles will be able to achieve closer to 200 miles (320km).

Published: 10-Feb-2010

SMITH Electric Vehicles is trialling a fuel cell that could double the range of its battery-powered vans and trucks.

Electric commercial vehicles have a maximum range of around 100 miles (160km) which makes them ideal for low mileage urban operations. However, by adding a small hydrogen fuel cell as a range extender, the vehicles will be able to achieve closer to 200 miles (320km).

Kevin Harkin, Sales Director for Smith Electric Vehicles, said: “Utilising a fuel cell range extender opens up exciting new possibilities for our electric vans and trucks.

“Enhancing the range capabilities provides a wider application for electric vehicles within large fleets, without compromising our zero emission philosophy.”

The UK-based manufacturer has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with fuel cell experts Proton Power Systems plc in Germany.

Under the MoU, both parties will collaborate to build and market a battery-powered commercial vehicle, equipped with a Proton Power PM200 fuel cell as a range extender. The fuel cell is used to top-up the batteries and support auxiliary vehicle functions such as air conditioning and heating. The fuel cell also provides an on-board electrical supply, which improves ease of maintenance.

The partners will start with Smith’s highly successful Edison range of electric vans, which are currently in use with leading UK fleet operators such as Sainsbury’s Online, Scottish & Southern Energy, TNT and the Royal Mail.
The collaboration is initially focused on supplying vehicles to fleet operators across Germany and is already in discussions for 20 vans with the German Government-backed hydrogen and electric vehicle organisation “NOW”. It also plans to address projects in the UK and North America.

Proton Power and Smith will present the first prototype at the Hannover Fair in April 2010, a premier trade event for the power industry. Thereafter, the partners plan to roll out the vehicle in transport and maintenance applications across German municipalities, with the first vehicles due to be delivered in the last quarter of 2010.

Electric vehicles integrated with a fuel cell expand the addressable market for zero emission vans and trucks. Pure electric commercial vehicles have a limited range and are restricted to low mileage, urban operations.

Thomas Melczer, CEO of Proton Power, said: “Fuel cell range extenders are an attractive option for overcoming the current problems of electric vehicles.
“Smith has extensive experience with electric vehicles and a strong reputation in the market. We look forward to working with them to roll out our fuel cells as vehicle range extenders in Germany and beyond.”

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