Energy fuel cell for Clarks van conversion

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Clarks Vehicle Conversions has fitted a fuel cell to one of its bespoke van conversions for the first time in a bid to create a greener source of energy for the on-board electrics.

The bespoke ‘command and control vehicle’ for MacRail will be used to provide site access control and reporting on railway track renewal operations and civil engineering works. 

The Peugeot Boxer features an exterior matrix sign, PA speaker on the roof, a satellite with auto-switch between 3G and 4G for 24 hour Internet and a PC with a swivel LCD screen.

To power all of these electrical items on-board the conversion, Clarks’ engineers have installed an energy efficient fuel cell to maintain charge on two standard auxiliary batteries

The fuel cell is considered to be greener because it uses a small amount of liquefied petroleum gas to raise its temperature and then re-uses its own heat to generate power.   

The cell’s only waste is water so it is a much cleaner source of energy and at only 35 decibels - about the noise level of a desk fan - it is quieter than a standard generator. 

Gary Stephenson, engineering manager at Clarks said: “Fuel cells are not often used in the van conversion industry but we aim to start using more of them on our vehicle conversions.

“The fuel cell is perfect for MacRail’s command and control vehicle because it has a lot of electrical equipment on-board that needs an energy-efficient and clean power source.”

MacRail employees will spend a lot of time on-board the command and control vehicle so it has to be a warm, safe and comfortable space to work in for long hours. 

The interior of the van is designed to be a mobile workspace with a desk, interior lighting and crucially welfare facilities like a toilet, a hot water boiler, a microwave and heating.

In addition to the fuel cell, Clarks has also developed a battery power management system which overrides the smart regenerative charging system on new vehicles.

Stephenson said: “In new vehicles when the engine’s battery is fully charged the alternator switches off but we need the alternator to maintain the charge on our auxiliary batteries.”

“We have developed a battery power management system which overrides this function by ring-fencing some of the power from the alternator for the on-board electricity.”

These changes to the electrical system are covered under Whole Vehicle Type Approval.  Clarks Vehicle Conversions has VCA ‘Type Approval’ on several of its welfare vehicles.

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