Pioneering scheme to develop hydrogen powered fire engines awarded £3.9m

A project being pioneered in Oxfordshire, which could create emergency vehicles powered by hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, has moved a step forward after receiving a boost of nearly £4 million.

Engineering firm ULEMCo has partnered with Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service to develop a hydrogen fuel cell that will extend the range of specialist electric vehicles including fire engines, ambulances and street sweepers.

Following a successful research period, the government has now awarded ULEMCo £3.9m to develop the project and potentially produce a prototype. The project is worth £7.8m, with industry matching the government’s financial contribution.

Funding for the ‘HYER Power’ project has come through the Advanced Propulsion Centre Collaborative Research and Development programme, which supports ambitions to build an end to end supply chain for zero emission vehicles in the UK. It is part of a £77m investment in seven collaborative UK heavy duty and commercial vehicle projects.

Councillor Pete Sudbury, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment, said: “Hydrogen could play an important role in our efforts to decarbonise. I’m delighted that we are partnering with ULEMCo on this important step in exploring and advancing zero carbon solutions.”

Rob MacDougall, Chief Fire Officer for Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are absolutely committed to act towards our net zero target and building on the work we have already done to move part of our fleet away from internal combustion engines. Heavy fire engines pose a particular challenge and we feel that hydrogen powered fuel cells can play a promising role in delivering on the county’s climate action ambitions.”

Amanda Lyne, Managing Director of ULEMCo, said: “We are delighted to see this recognition and commitment to developing hydrogen mobility as part of the solution to net zero. Hydrogen is essential for viable zero emission solutions in applications such as emergency response vehicles due to the rapid refuelling that enables the vehicle to be ‘fit to go’, and to provide the full flexibility and range required for the job. Our strong relationship with Oxfordshire County Council will enable us to make rapid progress moving to production-ready hydrogen fuel cell designs.”

Nusrat Ghani, Minister for Industry and Investment Security, said: “This cutting-edge work is going to mean clean, green vehicles designed and built in the UK can increasingly take on the toughest jobs, from haulage to public transport. Our automotive industry keeps setting the pace globally when it comes to seizing the potential of new technologies. Today’s multi-million pound boost will help them stay ahead of the international competition, while continuing to support high quality jobs and economic growth.”

The research project, which was announced in 2021, involved creating a detailed model of the hydrogen energy requirement. This included the energy needed to pump water for a minimum of four hours, as well as the optimal range for such a vehicle.

The project comes as the county council works towards becoming a net zero carbon local authority by 2030 for its own operational emissions.

Other partners in the project with ULEMCo include Technical Services (UK) Ltd for cooling capability, Altair Ltd for vehicle energy system modelling, along with Emergency One for the fire engine solutions.

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