Fuel cell manufacturer, Proton Power Systems, has created a world first.
Through its German subsidiary, Motor Fuel Cell GmbH, the group, which is registered at St Ann’s Wharf in Newcastle, has developed the first ever battery and fuel cell operated electric commercial vehicle in the 7.5 to 12 tonne weight class.
In an announcement posted on the London Stock Exchange, Proton said it had integrated its HyRange hydrogen fuel cell system with an output of 8kW into the vehicle, which supplies the battery with electrical energy.
This significantly improves the vehicle’s range and enables power to be supplied to the driver cabin air conditioning unit or additional equipment such as electrically powered refrigeration units.
The vehicle, based on the battery-powered Newton vehicle built by Smith Electric Vehicles, is available immediately for field testing by interested customers in the box van and tail lift configurations.
Managing director of Proton Motor Fuel Cell GmbH, Dr Francoise Faiz Nahab, said: “We developed our HyRange system for buses and commercial vehicles for inner-city use.
“The vehicles are extremely quiet and emissions free.
“This is an optimal solution for every city that needs to meet the planned environmental targets.
“We are very proud of the results of our work over the past three years and hope that we will see considerable interest.
“Field testing of the vehicles should give users from the logistics and service sectors an impression of the performance and reliability of our technology.”
First listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2006, Proton designs, develops and produces fuel cells and fuel cell electric hybrid systems.
Although registered in the North East, much of its product development is led by a 55-strong team based near Munich, Germany.
The latest news comes shortly after the publication of Proton’s interim results for the six months ending June 30, in which the group reported a loss of just over £3m and a 3.4% decrease in turnover to £543,000.
An accompanying report, however, highlighted how Proton was making great strides in research and development.
And while the initial investment required for a HyRange powered vehicle remains higher than a comparable diesel powered vehicle, the group has now started to look at how to bring the cost down.
During the first six months of year, discussions were also ongoing with major UK bus and heavy duty vehicle manufacturers, as well as the suppliers for the bus and truck industries.
Talks were likewise continuing with bus manufacturers in Spain and Poland, and presentations have been made in Europe and Asia Pacific. Proton has also received interest from the maritime sector and, following the acquisition of SPower in February, is moving into UPS, smart grid and energy storage applications, recently winning a €857,000 project with Siemens AG.
The report said: “The group’s continuing discussions with major OEM partners have highlighted that there is now a realistic opportunity for the breakthrough of fuel cell technology into the commercial domain.”
The latest project was supported by funding from the NIP (National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Innovation Programme).
The vehicle will be presented at the World of Energy Solutions trade fair this week in Stuttgart and will be available for test drives.