Royal Mail, the UK's flagship postal delivery service, has reportedly taken delivery of three hydrogen-fuelled vehicles in the first steps towards a zero carbon postage delivery service in the UK.

Renowned in the UK for its traditional red-coloured fleet, Royal Mail appears to be going green with the arrival of the new vehicles, believed to be the only hydrogen-fuelled postal vehicles in the world outside of North America.

The two Ford transits, boasting internal combustion engine conversions, will soon be on their way to Stornoway, Scotland where they will be fuelled by green hydrogen. Meanwhile, the fuel cell-powered micro cab vehicle will be used on the Birmingham University campus as the mail delivery vehicle and will also be fuelled by a green hydrogen source.

The Stornoway-based vehicles will use hydrogen derived from a local biogas plant, where putrescible domestic waste is digested and the resulting methane used to power a gas engine, which in turn provides the electricity to an electroliser and produces hydrogen. The vehicles will therefore be a zero carbon operation, as well as reducing landfill methane emissions to the atmosphere.

Paving the way
Birmingham University hit the headlines a year ago in April 2008, when it became home to one of Britain’s first hydrogen fuel stations, in the first stage of a motoring revolution that could pave the way for commercial production of fuel cell-powered vehicles.

The station at Birmingham University has been conducting trials with a fleet of five fuel-cell vehicles, while a further three hydrogen stations are planned for London and it's thought that there's likely to be at least twelve stations countrywide by 2010.

The station was not the first in the UK however, as had been widely reported in the media. The UK's first hydrogen fuelling station was actually built and operated by BOC in London, and was already refuelling London buses over four years ago.

In a separate development, a collaboration of Royal Mail, CENEX, PostEurop and FuelCellEurope have announced that they are working together towards developing a universal design specification for hydrogen fuel cell postal vans.