The commercial vehicle market stands to benefit the most from the adoption of cheap-to-operate electric vehicles, though range limitations also mean limited use for most delivery companies. Buoyed by a $3 million Federal grant, FedEx, Smith Electric Vehicles, and Plug Power are adding hydrogen-powered range extenders to 20 electric delivery vans for real world testing.
The hydrogen fuel cell range extenders will about double the driving range of the Smith Electric Vehicles delivery vans, which can travel about 80 miles between charges. That’s good enough for extremely local delivery, but many routes have drivers covering 150 miles or more on a regular delivery route. While electric vehicles are capable of covering such distances, the costs and recharging times go up accordingly. FedEx has tried out a wide range of electric vehicles, but so far none can cover a full day’s work. Rival UPS has gone so far as try out electric-assisted trikes in Europe.
By having a small battery and a hydrogen range extender however, one could add 50% more range in just a few short minutes if needed, and 160 miles of operating range should cover all but the lengthiest routes. Just as important, the hydrogen-electric hybrid can reduce fleet fueling costs by as much as 50%, and considering how much fuel those 10 MPG delivery vans go through, there’s a whole lot of money that can be saved if the right alternative is found.
With Toyota investing heavily in a hydrogen fueling infrastructure of its own, maybe fuel cells really are a better answer than pure EVs? FedEx certainly seems to think so.