Ulemco funding for development of hydrogen-fuelled fire engines

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Ulemco has received Government funding to produce an optimised design for specialised hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.

Working with Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) and its fire and rescue service, it will be designing the fuel cell electric powertrain configuration for zero emission fire appliances.

Named HySPERT - Hydrogen Special Purpose Electric vehicle platform for Refuse collection and fire Trucks - the work is planned to take eight months.

“We are excited to be working on this important initiative to plan the future of specialised utility vehicles such as fire tenders”, said Amanda Lyne, managing director of Ulemco.

“Hydrogen has tremendous potential for enabling zero emission vehicles in the short term.”

The funding was secured from Innovate UK under the Transition to Zero Emission programme. In the first stage of the project, the partners will develop a deep understanding of the specific duty cycles for emergency service vehicles that need 24/7 readiness, and enough energy on board for four to 40 hours continuous running.

Fire services use this type of vehicle in a variety of use scenarios, both urban and rural.

The work will involve creating a thorough understanding and a detailed model of the current energy requirement. This will include the energy needed to pump water for a minimum of four hours, as well as the optimal range requirement.

The test process will gather real world data based on the performance of an OEM manufactured fuel cell over the course of the project.

Ulemco will design the optimised fuel cell electric powertrain for the fire service, with the key output being a full specification and detailed engineered design for a prototype vehicle. This is a precursor to the next stage of development, which will involve the physical building of the prototype.

The project comes as Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) works towards becoming a net zero carbon local authority by 2030 for its own operational emissions. 

Councillor Pete Sudbury, OCC’s cabinet member for climate change delivery and environment, said: “Hydrogen could play an important role in our efforts to decarbonise, especially where battery powered electrification is challenging in heavy duty vehicles like fire engines.

“I’m delighted that we are partnering with Ulemco on this innovative feasibility study as an important step in exploring and advancing zero carbon solutions.

“OCC’s Fire & Rescue Service will provide operational insight while the council’s unique innovation hub along with climate action team will work with Ulemco to facilitate the project.”

OCC’s chief fire officer, Rob MacDougall, added: “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.”

Alongside the study, the county council will develop a plan for the hydrogen refuelling requirements across Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, and how this fits with the wider plans to develop a hydrogen infrastructure across the county.

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