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Ballard range-extender fuel cell module to power hybrid UPS delivery van trial program in California

Ballard Power Systems has signed a contract with CALSTART for a Ballard 30 kW FCveloCity-MD fuel cell module to be used in a trial and development program involving UPS Class-6 delivery vans operating in California’s South Coast Air Basin, including much of the Greater Los Angeles area. Funding for the project is being provided by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) as part of its efforts to reduce harmful air pollution.

The range of current battery-powered Class-6 UPS delivery vans is only sufficient for a limited percentage of routes, and often not for the majority of routes in any delivery area. This percentage can be further reduced if the delivery locations face unexpected heavier loads, hilly terrain or colder temperatures.

A range-extension solution using Ballard’s fuel cell range extender system can address these limitations by boosting drive range and providing certainty of completing daily delivery missions while maintaining zero-emission performance.

SCAQMD‘s technology advancement programs have helped to ensure wide-scale deployment of low- and zero-emission heavy duty on-road technologies, including all classes of trucks and buses, to clean the air in the South Coast basin. Greater deployment of fuel cell vehicles is expected to provide a reduction of pollutants, especially in disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately exposed to harmful diesel emissions.

—Wayne Nastri, SCAQMD’s executive officer

CALSTART’s primary goal for this project is to demonstrate the business case and technical feasibility of deploying fuel cell hybrid electric Class-6 vehicles with greater range capability such that UPS chooses to deploy up to 1,500 similar vehicles in its California fleet over the next 5-years—representing a significant percentage of UPS’s 8,000 California delivery vans—while also demonstrating the economic and technical potential of this technology to other operators of the states’ approximately 650,000 Class 4-to-7 vehicles.

The program with UPS will use a 23,000 lb. Class-6 delivery van capable of speeds up to 65 miles per hour. The UPS van will be equipped with a 71 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 30kW Ballard fuel cell engine. Viewed as a replacement for an older diesel delivery van, this zero-emission configuration will deliver a net 24 metric ton reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs) together with a 0.02 ton reduction in criteria pollutant emissions on an annual basis.

Partners for this program include South Coast Air Quality Management District, UPS, Complete Coach Works (CCW) and Unique Electric Solutions (UES).



This technology is already deployed in France, using the Symbio (Michelin) fuel cell.

It clearly enables far more practical electrification of delivery vehicles and may assist the roll out of hydrogen infrastructure, although some operators may simply install private hydrogen pumps at the depots.


The 30kW version is the only one Ballard is able to sell for transportation. That is about the right size for a LDV range extender.


I'm highly skeptical of H2FCs but this might have some synergies which make the whole more than the sum of its parts.  For instance, using the FC's waste heat to keep the batteries at optimal temperature and get the most out of them despite cold weather (not to mention cabin heat).



Perhaps you should check before making claims.

Ballard supplies 60KW and 90KW modules for transport as well as this 30KW one:


IMO, any kind of range extender is a good thing, even if it is petrol or Nat gas.
Lots of people can't afford H2Fcs or are not near H2 pumps, but if you have a commute that is rural and urban, you can use the battery for the urban part and the range extender for the rural bits. Thus, you need a much smaller battery.
Or you can match your battery to your commute, but if anything changes, you are still OK, so no range problems.
Thus, we could consider two types of range extender systems: small battery and medium battery ones. In small battery systems, we will use the range extender quite a bit, so it needs to be efficient. In medium battery ones, we will only use the range extender occasionally, so it does not need to be so efficient.
Either way, both need a fuel tank (and cap), an engine/generator and an exhaust system, including a catalyst, which is quite a bit of stuff, but it only has to generate electricity, which it can do across a limited rev range, unlike an engine for a car.
I find it hard to understand why this has not been done by more vehicle manufacturers.


Clean running Hybrids using batteries + clean H2FCs could be an effective way to reduce various pollution and GHG. The higher initial cost could be partly or fully compensated with the proper mix of batteries and FCs, better use in harsh weather, more driver-passenger comfort and lower operation cost.

It may very well be one of the solution used for delivery vehicles in the near future, specially when diesel units are banned from city cores.


Our local business area (North Salt Lake, Utah) UPS driver drives about 60 miles a day but he told me that most of the home delivery drivers average around 100 miles per day. If a vehicle could reliably drive about 120 to 150 miles on battery, then there is no need for a fuel cell extender. This obviously not going to work in rural areas of the west. But even if you needed a range extender, I would think that it would be more cost effective to use a CNG fueled ICE especially given that most hydrogen comes from NG reforming.

I find it hard to understand why this has not been done by more vehicle manufacturers.

It probably makes more sense when you look at the incentive structures set up by governments.


Using a hydrogen RE is just about the only way of carrying on as a ZEV when the battery runs low, so why folk should be keen to substitute something else baffles me.

Delivery vehicles do relatively low mileage over many hours, so the hydrogen RE can just run all the time, and 30KW over 8 hours is way more than batteries can provide with any sensible size pack and weight penalty.

30KW is something like the average consumption, so with a five minute refill range becomes effectively unlimited and any run can be undertaken, with no need to waste the asset of the car and driver through lengthy charging.

In addition routes don't become suddenly impossible in the winter, unlike using a BEV for ranges near the limit in the cold.

There always were going to be all sorts of combinations between batteries and fuel cells, as whatever one solution fits all battery zealots may imagine, the two technologies complement each other very well.


This looks like a sensible experiment in hydrogen, although when battery costs drop far enough - under $90-100 per kWh? - the preferred method may be to simply add more batteries in the space that would otherwise go to the fuel cell, its plumbing and heat exchangers and fuel tanks.

William Stockwell

I like fuel cells but have my doubts about hydrogen as a fuel- I'm interested in SOFCs, and direct methanol and ethanol fuel cells but I also check in on hydrogen production and storage developments on a monthly basis - of course the faster a battery can be recharged the less range extenders may be needed- exciting times my friends.


If Tesla can get 500 miles from a Battery Semi; that means batteries have the necessary density to render an extender as expensive, unneeded, deadweight.


“Perhaps you should check before making claims.”

I’m well aware that Ballard has the 90 kW version as well as the 60 and 30 kW versions. And technically they sold 30 of the 90kw version to China for use in buses. China agreed to buy 300 additional but Ballard had to offer them as 60 and 30 kW versions and about 90% of those 300 were the 30kW versions. China deployed 300k Battery electric buses to go along with the 330 FCEBs.

China is now re-focusing on trucks and Ballard sold 500 of the 30kW FCs for city trucks. I’m sure you’re aware that 30kW is pretty close to the equivalent of the range extender for the BMW i3 or about 40HP. My point was that aside from the token sales of the 90s 60s the 30s are the only ones being purchased.

I think it is great that China is throwing a life line to Ballard but if I were at Ballard i’d Be a little concerned about China’s history of not respecting IP.


Gasbag said:

'I’m well aware that Ballard has the 90 kW version as well as the 60 and 30 kW versions. '

Then why did you claim that:

' The 30kW version is the only one Ballard is able to sell for transportation. '

? It behoves critics to ensure that their claims are well founded, not inventions.

In fact the fuel cell stacks in buses including those from Ballard come in sizes ranging from 30KW to 100KW:

In addition the Ballard stacks have proven operation longevity of over 25,000 hours ( 23,000 give in my link. More data has now arrived)

Please also cite your source for your claim that 90% of the stacks for the Chinese buses are 30KW.



“My point was that aside from the token sales of the 90s 60s the 30s are the only ones being purchased.”

Did you miss that Davenart? Or does it require further explanation?

The word sell has multiple meanings but in my context I did not mean to offer for sale. I meant to complete transactions in quantity exceeding that of a pilot project. The 30kW versions meet that. The 60 and 90 do not.

Ballard tends to omit significant details of interest in their blurbs so one is typically forced to find multiple sources. Which is what I’ve done. The first was a 2016 blurb on the 30 units of the 90kW versions sold. The next was a more detailed blurb from Chinese source that detailed an order of 300 units of 60 and 30 kW units for buses. Ballard had a corresponding announcement but it omitted useful details. The third was a 2018 announcement that 500 30kW units will be sold for city trucks in China.

Sorry but i’ve Been unable to re-locate the 2017 Chinese blurb which actually had some details.


here's 36kw ranger extender that runs on anything


You did not say:

'“aside from the token sales of the 90s 60s the 30s are the only ones being purchased.”'


'' The 30kW version is the only one Ballard is able to sell for transportation. '

Most of the demand may, or may not, be for 30KW stacks, but clearly Ballard can and have supplied other size stacks, just as one would expect since they are highly modular.

In the link already supplied but here it is again:

Ballard say (pg9) under 'Hybridisation' that the fuel cell stacks they supply are currently 30-100KW depending on the strategy of the bus operator.

Whatever the size of the stack usually chosen it is clear that they can fully do the job so your notion that they are somehow limited to being an LCV RE is unsubstantiated, as are your claims that most of them in China are 30KW.


That quote is copied from a prior post which hasn’t been removed by the mod and is still visible.

I wasn’t implying that that Ballard can’t produce stacks of almost any output. It was more that they aren’t able to find buyers in significant quanties for the stacks other than as range extenders. In fact even the majority of the higher output stacks may be used as range extenders. See link below.


Could it be that the best use of FCs will be in hybrid units, as range extenders.

That could be true for electrified cars, SUVs, Pick-Ups, delivery vehicles, trucks, buses, boats, drones, airplanes etc?


I prefer HTPEM where we can run on bio methanol with reformers.

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