Britain’s Department for Transport (DfT) says new technology trials will lead to emergency services, supermarkets and delivery companies using hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The trials will lead to supermarkets, emergency services and delivery companies using hydrogen-powered transport to move goods and carry out local services.

Transport Secretary of State, Grant Shapps maintained hydrogen transport pilots in the Tees Valley area would establish the UK as a “leader in the technology” as he unveiled the winners of a GBP2.5m (US$3.5m) R&D competition.

In collaboration with Stagecoach, Ricardo will retrofit a double-decker diesel bus with a hybrid fuel cell system. The bus will be driven on local routes and learnings from the project will support fuel cell retrofit technologies in public transport across the UK.

Toyota is to deliver a number of hydrogen vehicles, including a forklift truck for warehouse operations, a passenger bus and ten fuel cell passenger cars. These will be deployed across the town’s rapid response services, such as emergency response units for the Cleveland Police and NHS patient support.

HV Systems plans to demonstrate the use of hydrogen in delivery vans in the Tees Valley area. The vehicles will be operated in collaboration with a supermarket chain, running between 19 superstores and their main distribution centre.

The project aims to show how delivery vans fitted with fuel cells can have increased range, faster refuelling times than battery-electric versions and speed parity with conventional diesel vehicles.

In collaboration with Sainsbury’s supermarket, Element Energy will also be trialling a hydrogen-powered heavy goods vehicle in the Tees Valley area. The vehicle will be operated from a local distribution centre and will be carrying out goods deliveries in the area.

“With less than 100 days to go until COP26, I’m committed to supporting industry to develop innovative new technologies that will decarbonise transport, helping us to build back greener and level up the country,” said Shapps.

“By harnessing the power of hydrogen technology, we can pave the way for its use across all transport modes, creating cleaner, greener more efficient transport systems across the UK.”

For his part, Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, added: “Through trialling the use of hydrogen in transport across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, we are spearheading the path to a greener future by developing the knowledge and expertise needed to roll hydrogen out as a fuel source across the country.

“In Teesside, we already produce 50% of the UK’s hydrogen, so there is no better place for this research to take place.

“This new investment shows how Teesside is leading the way in the drive for the UK to be net zero by 2050, creating good-quality, well-paid, clean energy jobs in the process.”