Microcab’s van could change the face of city deliveries

Hydrogen London partners, Microcab, working with Coventry University’s department of engineering, have developed a small delivery van that could change the face of city deliveries.

According to a report by Transport for London, light goods vehicles contribute around 7% to the capital’s CO2 emissions. Whilst this figure may appear to be a small percentage compared to the 47% by cars and motorcycles, any reduction in carbon-emitting vehicles would be welcome.

The Microcab van is a two-seater electric/hydrogen hybrid vehicle, with 220kg of payload space. It can run for 180 miles on 1.6kg of hydrogen, and takes only three minutes to fill the hydrogen tank as opposed to the typical six hours needed to recharge an electric vehicle.

Sourcing hydrogen

Microcab, in partnership with the University of Birmingham, are exploring the potential to source hydrogen from anaerobic digesters, which produce biogas. Once the biogas from the digester is cleaned, it is converted to hydrogen fuel, which produces electricity in the fuel cell.

There are many examples of such experiments taking place around the world, but the majority of projects are on farms, and the waste in question is animal manure.

Coventry University’s Professor John Jostins, who is leading the project, says he would be keen to hear from any retailers, wholesale market operators or food producers that would like to trial the vehicles for deliveries, but also to explore the possibilities of using waste food in the fuel process.

“The Microcab is perfect for city-centre deliveries, not only is it a green way to run a vehicle but also at the moment it is congestion-charge and road-tax exempt,” he explains.

“The cab’s top speed at the moment is 55mph, due to the single gear fitted to make the drive simple and easy for city use. Right now there is a new project called SWARM, which is trialling 10 of the Microcabs across Europe.”

The fuel tank’s maximum capacity is 1.6kg which is quite modest bearing in mind that 1kg of hydrogen has the same energy content as 1 gallon (3.2 kg) of petrol. However, on one tank-full Microcab can travel up to about 180 miles and 1kg of hydrogen costs roughly £4. As more vehicles are produced, this could take the price of the fuel down to the same level as petrol making the vehicle even more economical to run.

“This has all come about because we’re committed to greener, cleaner cities. The opportunities for better air quality, but also for further developing renewable energy are very exciting.”

This article is an extract from Samantha Lyster’s  feature for Produce Business UK. Samantha also blogs at www.20yearsfromnow.co.uk and shares information on interesting environmental projects.