£2.3m funding for Eco-Island hydrogen vehicle infrastructure

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The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is to provide £2.3m of funding for hydrogen vehicle infrastructure as part of the Isle of Wight’s Eco-Island initiative.

Project leader ITM Power is to get £1.3m in order to supply its core hydrogen technology and work with the other partners to integrate it into the grid and power system.

The Eco-Island project aims to make the entire island carbon neutral and energy independent by 2020 based on a combination of solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and waste-to-energy generation.

Speaking to The Engineer in November last year when Eco-Island was unveiled, co-founder David Green said: ‘The big problem is about demand and supply balancing… trying to get to a point where you can take surplus generating capacity and store it, hold it and release it when you need it.’

Part of that solution will be to design, build, install and operate two grid-connected hydrogen refuelling platforms on the Isle of Wight, with 100kg/day and 15kg/day capacities, respectively for the operation of a fleet of hydrogen vehicles.

‘We’ve got a quarter of a megawatt of load that can be turned on and off in one second, which is everything that you need to be able to balance against intermittent renewable power,’ Dr Graham Cooley, ITM chief executive, told The Engineer in light of the most recent announcement.

Island innovation

To begin with there will be four hydrogen internal combustion engine vans bought by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) (refuelled at 350 bar); four Hyundai hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (refuelled at 700 bar); an undisclosed number of fuel cell vehicles from Riversimple and Microcab of Coventry; and finally a Catamaran with a Honda outboard hydrogen combustion motor.

SSE is also providing the grid connection to the island’s renewables and IBM will develop a user interface to allow smartcard payments to the refuellers. On top of this, Cable & Wireless Worldwide will monitor the refuellers and vehicles with cloud-based data acquisition.

‘It’s a constant streaming of data so we know the state of the refuelling unit and also we know about the state of the vehicles,’ Cooley said.  

ITM, which is listed on the AIM stock exchange, also announced that it has raised £5m through firm placing of new ordinary shares, which will allow it to further expand into other markets such as material handling and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Indeed, the company has recently completed a six-week trial at an M&S distribution centre in Bradford, where hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and on-site hydrogen production units were tested as a direct substitute for the existing battery-powered fleet.

‘It’s a turnkey solution for any retailer or logistic company; they can get from us a hydrogen refueller, they can get a forklift truck, all of the fuel cells, everything from ITM,’ said Cooley.

He also revealed some more details about the agreement with Boeing Research & Technology, announced earlier this year, to provide container electrolysis equipment as part of Boeing’s off-grid refuelling station for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

‘So UAVs for the civilians market: this new market that’s emerging for things such as police, ambulance, fire service, remote monitoring of assets — anything where you used to use a helicopter — you can now use an unmanned vehicle and stream back the video,’ Cooley said, adding that ITM also has contracts in place with EADS.