Intelligent Energy, the energy technology group, will lead a UK industry consortium that is to develop a new class of zero-emission, LCVs. By integrating fuel cell technology into BEVs, the consortium will deliver the capability to provide low carbon LCVs with significantly improved range and rapid refuelling.
The three-year project, utilising Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell technology, is to develop validated systems and vehicle conversion expertise ready for volume manufacture. The goal is also to provide fleet operators with a solution that enables vehicle operation for extended periods whilst being emissions free at the tailpipe.
The consortium will receive a £6.3m grant from the Advanced Propulsion Centre as part of the £12.7m project. In addition to lead partner Intelligent Energy, the partners comprise Frost EV, Frost Electronics, Millbrook, CENEX, British Gas and DHL.
The collaborative project minimises technical and commercial risk by initially targeting captive and commercial fleet operators, providing a package that can be integrated into vehicles as an end-of-line fitment at an OEM, through a new-vehicle conversion facility or by retro-fitting at approved centres.
Fuel cell systems can be used to increase BEV range while maintaining zero emissions. The light commercial vehicle systems developed during this programme will offer operational advantages through increased access to restricted emission zones combined with faster refuelling times than battery pack recharging alternatives. The consortium will work in conjunction with a steering group including vehicle manufacturers, government agencies and major fleet operators.
James Batchelor, Managing Director, Motive Division, Intelligent Energy, said: “The calibre of the partners underlines the level of confidence in the advantages of and commercial opportunities for fuel cell solutions for electric vehicle application. There is a need to move quickly to capitalise on these opportunities, and this programme will enable Intelligent Energy and our partners to do this.
“Ever tightening legislation to decarbonise road transport, such as the introduction of Low and Ultra Low Emission Zones, and the accelerating roll out of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure provide a real commercial imperative for the widespread adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology,” added Batchelor.
Jon Beasley, Director of Technology and Projects, Advanced Propulsion Centre, located at the University of Warwick, said: “Our aim is to position the UK as a global centre for low carbon propulsion systems development and production. This consortium of British companies is helping the APC to deliver its aim with this innovative project that uses hydrogen fuel cell technologies. It has the potential to deliver a viable zero-emission vehicle for fleet operators around the world.”
“To complement Intelligent Energy’s proven business model based on licensing our technology to vehicle makers, we also recognise the potential to secure the early market introduction of our fuel cell systems with the goal to provide range-extended capability to fleet operators of battery electric vehicles. Indeed, fleet operators are already engaged with the battery EV market to comply with current and future legislation and achieve corporate environmental sustainability goals. They are pushing for increased range and faster refuelling times to allow greater fleet flexibility and reduce costs.
“Many have indicated that without this range extender technology, perhaps just 10% of total LCV fleets are likely to be switched to battery EV propulsion. Using cost-effective fuel cell technology, that estimate rises in the short term to about 30%.
“By the end of the project, vehicles will be delivered using Intelligent Energy’s class-leading fuel cell technology built to automotive standards, ready for extensive fleet use. The relationships formed as a result of this programme will help to develop a mature supply chain and commercial framework, in turn supporting the expansion of hydrogen infrastructure, with the expectation that this will lead to the availability of fuel cells at scale,” added Beasley.