C-ALPS secures £4m hydrogen testing contracts

Coventry University’s Centre for Advanced Low-Carbon Propulsion Systems (C-ALPS) has secured more than £4m of new hydrogen testing contracts.

The £50m C-ALPS research centre is a joint investment between Coventry University and global engineering consultancy FEV. It is working with leading engine and vehicle manufacturers, electrification start-ups and UK and European research consortia to develop new solutions for e-mobility start-ups and zero-emission drive systems.

Over the last two years, £3m has been jointly invested in the creation of a state-of-art hydrogen research, development and testing facility.

It is now capable of evaluating prototypes and pre-production hydrogen propulsion systems for use in trucks, coaches, off-highway machinery, ships, trains, and light to medium-sized aircraft.

C-ALPS’ five test beds have also been upgraded to provide an environment that can test output up to 650kW, with a new tie-up agreed with UK hydrogen refuelling business Element 2 to ensure the centre has the quantity of low carbon Fuel Cell grade (ISO 14687) hydrogen needed to meet demand.

Simon Shepherd, director of C-ALPS, commented: “The latest contracts take the total value of joint projects active and completed at C-ALPS to more than £20m. This, along with the level of interest we are seeing from collaborators, is a sure sign that we have created the environment and expertise required to support UK companies in meeting future propulsion technology demands.”

He added that the joint investment from the university and FEV has been critical to the success of the latest test and development contracts being delivered.

“Our approach has been for the university to make the initial investment in cutting-edge facilities to support high-impact research, with FEV offering additional financial and technical support and the long-term business case for the investments through the provision of commercial services for customers working on products closer to manufacture.”

Besides research and engineering development, C-ALPS’ third role is to create a real-world training environment for engineers and research specialists of the future. The recent £4m+ contract haul promises to deliver more employment opportunities.

So far seven engineers have been taken on as FEV employees, three of whom have come through the university’s undergraduate courses, with ten PhD students working on joint projects sponsored and co-supervised with FEV in the UK and Germany.

Jörn Behrenroth, managing director of FEV UK, said: “At C-ALPS, we offer organisations, from both research and industry, the opportunity to put sustainable hydrogen propulsion systems through their paces throughout the entire development cycle, from component up to system performance development.

“Access to a continuous supply of hydrogen from Element 2 is a key advantage for the centre right now, providing reliable and long-term testing for both fuel cell and combustion-based hydrogen propulsion systems.”

FEV is bringing in-depth experience in propulsion system development and validation, covering internal combustion engines, fuel-cells, battery systems and electric drives.

C-ALPS also hosts Coventry University’s Hydrogen Energy research group, which supports the centre’s commercial activities with academic expertise and works on industrial collaborative research projects.

These range from fuel cell stack instrumentation, diagnostics, and thermal management to the development of next-generation materials, processes, and electrolyser cell designs for green hydrogen production.