COLCHESTER Garrison has begun trialling hydrogen-fuelled charging facilities aiming to provide electricity in hard-to-supply locations.

A hydrogen power unit is being tested at Merville Barracks to help the initiative to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainable energy usage. 

The Defence Support organisation is leading this trial as a part of the Ministry of Defence's transition to use more non-tactical vehicles, known as the white fleet.

This white fleet is like work pull cars, used to transport people from one unit to another.

Gazette: Pleased - Lance Corporal James Jenner charging his vehiclePleased - Lance Corporal James Jenner charging his vehicle (Image: Steve Brading)

The trial is also a part of the Sustainable Road Transport programme aiming to provide resilience and mobility in off-grid or hard-to-supply locations.

Flight Lieutenant Richard Griffiths, the project manager for strategic command, said: "We are looking at how we can help units where they have limited recharging abilities and how we can help them use electric charging stations.

"The grid is always the solution but these hydrogen-fuelled energy charging points are the short-term solution.

"Commercial and heavy good vehicles have been the most likely type of vehicles to use these facilities as you can refill them in a matter of minutes and it doesn't affect the weight of the vehicle."

Gazette: Technical - Field Service engineer Wayne Harwood inside the HPU storage container plantTechnical - Field Service engineer Wayne Harwood inside the HPU storage container plant (Image: Steve Brading)

Housed in an easily movable shipping container, all the energy conversion happens in fuel cells surrounding the facility. 

Hydrogen is taken into the fuel cell and converted into zero-emission electricity which is then transported through a wire to the charging port. 

The facility can charge up to four electric vehicles at once, with the vehicle charging time depending on how many vehicles are plugged in.

Gazette: Talks - Two people learning about the HPUTalks - Two people learning about the HPU (Image: Steve Brading)

Ange Baker, Defence Support organisation's Head Support Futures and Operational Energy Authority, said: "It is an important step to start this trial for rapid recharging of our electric car fleet.

"Not only does this look at supporting the existing charging network and our electric car fleet but is also a part of the wider work to examine future energy options for military use and to start configuring defence for the global energy transition."

The trial run will go on for two months at the barracks. 

Gazette: Charging - Garrison Commander Lieutenant Commander Ed Rankin using the charging stationCharging - Garrison Commander Lieutenant Commander Ed Rankin using the charging station (Image: Steve Brading)

Lieutenant Colonel Ed Ranki, Commander of Colchester Garrison, said: "It is fantastic to help explore the use of hydrogen and how it may support defence in the future. 

"The system allows us to demonstrate the concept here at Merville Barracks and understand the technology's potential to increase resiliency on our bases and be used on operations at home and overseas."

Leitenanant Clonal Ranki continued: "I am proud of this site and I enjoy the growth with the community, departments and councils.

"We at Merville Barracks are absolutely delighted to be a part of the trial and how we will be able to benefit from improving sustainability and reducing carbon emissions."

Gazette: Innovative - The charging port that plugs in to vehiclesInnovative - The charging port that plugs in to vehicles (Image: Steve Brading)

The energy generation, charging and payment technology is provided by renewable energy specialists GeoPura and is being tested at two other locations, HMNB Devonport and RAF Leeming.

Rebecca McLean, Chief Commercial Officer at Geopura, said: "GeoPura is delighted to support Colchester Garrison and the MOD in delivering off-grid charging for its growing electric vehicle fleet as a part of the Sustainable Road Transport programme.

"Hydrogen-powered generators provide a reliable and environmentally friendly source of power with zero harmful emissions, completely unrestricted by grid limitations."