The future of transport in Bristol? The Hydrogen Ferry and Electric Vehicles

by Kevin on August 16, 2013 · 0 comments

Blog post by Matthew Cockburn, Smart City Coordinator.

Rather like the current changeable August weather I had a day of contrasts today.

My morning was spent with Bristol’s fleet manager, Nick Gingell, discussing opportunities for Electric Vehicles (EVs). Perhaps surprisingly, Bristol does not currently own a single Plug-In Electric Vehicle. Nick is taking advice from the Energy Savings Trust on the whole-life economics of different types of vehicle technology to see if EVs make sense.

For EVs to make sense as pool cars they have to be well-used, but not be needed for long trips (at least until fast charging is in place). Bristol’s hills are another factor, as repeated trips up and down hill in stop-start traffic will reduce range to some extent. And then there’s the issue

of the “grey fleet”  -  people using their own cars for business – but that’s a whole other issue!

Having looked at the pros and cons of EVs in the morning, my afternoon’s excursion was aboard “Hydrogenesis”, Bristol’s experimental hydrogen-powered ferry. The technology certainly works and is impressively quiet. Unlike previous ferry trips I have been on it was possible to have a quiet conversation without having to compete with the engine.

In partnership with the Council, Auriga Energy have overcome many issues to prove that fuel cell technology is viable today. To do this they have developed a customised ferry complete with four 3kW fuel cells. The ferry can apparently run for a number of days on one 4kg refill of hydrogen, and when it does need a refill it can refuel at the prototype filling station which has been installed on Cumberland Basin. The fact that this ferry has been delivered despite many obstacles, and reams of paperwork along the way, is impressive and hopefully will ensure Bristol is well placed to capitalise on this smart energy.

Having seen the opportunities for Electric Vehicles and hydrogen I came away impressed at how close to becoming mainstream they are. Clearly, they both have advantages and they both have disadvantages but I didn’t come away feeling able to call between them.

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