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H2OOO Look at that nice van!

Kris Karslake Kris Karslake 21 Nov 2017

BAM has been working to make transport more sustainable for several years. Having reduced both overall and average employee mileage and brought the company and grey fleet CO2 ratings down to industry leading lows, the focus has to be on the future and alternative fuelled vehicles.

Following several knowledge share sessions with Sheffield based ITM Power (a leader in hydrogen technology and production), BAM was keen to look for opportunities to trial hydrogen in some way. The launch of a funding competition with The Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) was just the opportunity. The government scheme was designed to support the roll out and market growth of fuel cell electric vehicles. BAM was among the winners, gaining funding to support the purchase and trialling of two light commercial vehicles. Jesse Putzel, Head of Sustainability, worked with Jason Reed, Director of BAM Plant, to get approval from the Board to take on the challenge.

“We were over the moon to be successful and to be trialling this relatively new technology (for our industry). We are continually driving down CO2 emissions from our fleet but we want to keep looking at the next innovation or opportunity. These two hydrogen fuel cell assisted vans will help us identify the current barriers to wider spread use, as well as supporting the growth in the market,” said Jason Reed, Director of BAM Plant, who manages the company's fleet.

The vehicles are essentially Renualt Kangoo ZE vans, with a hydrogen fuel cell range extender. Without getting overly technical… hydrogen from the 2kg tank in the van, and oxygen from the air, are used to create a chemical reaction (electrolysis), which produces electricity. This electricity is captured and used to top up a 22kW battery that comes as standard in the van. The benefit is a doubling in range, without the significant increase in weight and cost that would be required if the battery capacity was increased.

The vans are very low or zero CO2 in operation and the only emissions on the road are steam or warm water. 

Used for the right applications, hydrogen really does have the potential to be one of the vital low emissions fuels of the future - although pioneer of battery technology, Elon Musk, would provide a counter argument.

The journey will not be without its challenges. The vans themselves have had significant delays for one reason or another, primarily because the fuel cell technology is a ‘bolt-on’ to the vans. Additionally the hydrogen filling stations are limited in number – currently less than 10 exist in the UK, but they are increasing over time.

The vehicles will also require a change in mind-set of the drivers and this will be a case of trial and error and forming new habits over time, but they’re up for the challenge. Construction is by its nature, very transient, so our van used by BAM Plant to service construction sites will be the real test. The driver will have to make the most of the hydrogen filling stations and public electric vehicle charging points. Hopefully the service Zap-map will come in handy. This site provides a live feed of available electric charging points and hydrogen filling stations.

Our two drivers with the new vans

For our facilities management business, BAM FM, it may be a little simpler. Richard Lewsley (Combustion Engineer, BAM FM) has a daily plan of work, and is therefore aware of the distance of each journey and can plan visits to hydrogen filling stations when required. “I’m excited to have been selected as a guineapig. My wife and I have been seriously looking into an electric car for personal use, and I’m pleased that I can test out an alternative to my diesel van for work.”

As well as using the vans in our operations, we plan to engage and communicate with as many people as possible, including employees, local schools, others who are using or interested in using hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and companies that are taking part in the OLEV trials.


Kris Karslake is a Sustainability Manager at BAM

If you’re interested in discussing or sharing experiences, please get in touch.



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