Study to assess fuel cells for fire engines

Fire engines could one day be fitted with fuel cell electric powertrains following a feasibility study led by ULEMCo and partners.

fire engines
Image: OCC Fire & Rescue Service

Working with Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) and its Fire and Rescue Service, ULEMCo will design the fuel cell electric powertrain configuration for zero emission fire appliances as part of project HySPERT (HYdrogen Special Purpose Electric vehicle platform for Refuse collection and fire Trucks) which is being funded by Innovate UK under the Transition to Zero Emission programme.

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In the first stage of the eight-month project, the partners will develop an understanding of the specific duty cycles for emergency service vehicles that need constant readiness and enough energy for four to 40 hours continuous running.

This will involve creating a thorough understanding and a detailed model of the current energy requirement, including the energy needed to pump water for a minimum of four hours. 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 and Rescue Service, with the key output being a full specification and detailed engineered design for a prototype vehicle.

The project comes as Oxfordshire County Council works towards becoming a net zero carbon local authority by 2030.

In a statement, councillor Pete Sudbury, OCC’s cabinet member for Climate Change Delivery & 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. 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.”

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

Alongside HySPERT, 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.