The future of RVs: Hydrogen-powered adventure campers

First Hydrogen NEXTGEN Concept Zero Emission Campervan
Envisioning a robust, hydrogen-powered camper van, First Hydrogen proposes a design featuring ample living space, an expansive front windshield, and significant ground clearance, providing a more eco-friendly and serene RVing experience. Images © First Hydrogen

In recent years, the global market has seen a gradual increase in electric camper vans, particularly in Europe and the United States. However, hydrogen fuel cell recreational vehicles (RVs) could offer a more practical driving range while retaining the benefits of electric drive technology. First Hydrogen, a transatlantic company, is exploring this concept with its next-generation fuel cell vehicle designed for all-terrain camper vans.

Based in London and Vancouver, First Hydrogen Corp focuses on developing a zero-emissions light commercial vehicle (LCV) paradigm powered by hydrogen fuel cells. In collaboration with Ballard and AVL, the company has developed a first-generation fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) demonstrator built on a MAN TGE van and is currently conducting trial testing. Simultaneously, First Hydrogen is working on a custom zero-emissions vehicle from scratch, intended to serve as its second-generation LCV.

Earlier this month, First Hydrogen unveiled the first complete images of its Gen 2 LCV concept, followed by a picture showcasing the vehicle transformed into a full-blown adventure van. The van features off-road lighting, a front winch, and what appears to be a solar panel on the roof. The absence of a roof rack and the depiction of kayaking suggest that the spacious leisure vehicle could accommodate large gear like kayaks inside the cabin before quickly converting into a waterfront hotel suite.

While the company has only mentioned that the RV would provide ample living quarters, it also highlights good ground clearance. Off-road-centered components, such as all-terrain tires, auxiliary lighting, and fender flares, imply that First Hydrogen is considering an off-road-ready camper van and potentially an all-wheel-drive (AWD) electric motor layout for the Gen 2 family.

First Hydrogen Gen 2 Concept Campervan
In a collaborative effort, First Hydrogen and EDAG have worked together to develop a Gen 2 light commercial vehicle, which could be driven by either a battery electric or a fuel cell powertrain.

First Hydrogen collaborated with German engineering services provider EDAG Group to create both the original Gen 2 LCV and camper van concepts. Steve Gill, First Hydrogen’s CEO of Automotive, explained that the company is exploring the potential benefits of hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicle technologies for sectors beyond LCVs, including leisure vehicles. A hydrogen vehicle could help preserve the environment while enabling van life enthusiasts to connect with nature.

A fuel cell powertrain would not only eliminate harmful emissions but also operate more quietly than traditional internal combustion engines (ICE). Compared to battery electric vehicles, an FCEV RV could cover longer distances, carry heavier payloads, and refuel in minutes, almost as quickly as gas or diesel vehicles. First Hydrogen has not specified the range objectives for the Gen 2, but its first-generation van is designed to achieve between 249 and 373 miles (400 and 600 km) of range with a refueling time of five minutes.

First Hydrogen Zero-Emission Campervan Gen 1 Trials
Recently, First Hydrogen partnered with fleet management company Rivus to initiate the inaugural road trials involving a fleet of their Gen 1 FCEV light commercial vehicles in the UK.

An emissions-free power source could also prove valuable at camp. Electric appliances like refrigerators and cooktops could run off a leisure battery, with the fuel cell stack serving as a cleaner, quieter alternative to a gas generator or ICE-driven alternator.

However, there is one major obstacle to bringing any FCEV camping vehicle from concept to reality: the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Quick refueling is only an advantage if there are accessible fueling stations. This might be feasible for commercial operators with their own refueling sources and specific routes, but it poses a significant challenge for RVing.

The US Department of Energy currently lists only 60 retail hydrogen fueling stations across the entire United States, with 59 of them concentrated in California and one in Hawaii. The situation is even more dire in First Hydrogen’s home countries, with both Canada and England having fewer than 10 hydrogen stations.

First Hydrogen NEXTGEN Concept Campervan Cargo Area Rendering
A fuzzy rendering of First Hydrogen’s Gen 2 LCV offers a glimpse of the spacious, cubic cargo area that holds the potential for accommodating an extensive camper layout.

For this reason, hydrogen fuel cell camper ideas frequently stay as conceptual illustrations and display models. As First Hydrogen has recently initiated the 12- to 18-month trial phase for their Gen 1 fuel cell vehicles, it is possible that the hydrogen infrastructure could become more comprehensive and reliable by the time the company prepares to launch Gen 2.

Source: First Hydrogen