Features & Interviews

Funding boost: How the APC supports zero-emission commercial vehicle projects

07 December 2022 #Features & Interviews

The UK is home to many companies working on innovative new zero-emission technologies with the potential to be world leaders in their areas of expertise and to create high quality, long-term jobs.

As these companies are often involved in intensive testing of new technology, batteries, motors, drives, electronics and fuel cells, additional funding support can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure.

That is where UK Government organisation The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) comes in.

Since its foundation in 2013, it has funded 188 low-carbon projects involving 426 partners, working with companies of all sizes, and helped to create or safeguard more than 50,000 jobs in the UK.

For example, a consortium led by Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK) has just secured £5.6m of APC funding for an £11.3m project to develop and pilot production of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of the Hilux pickup truck.

The project will make use of components from Toyota’s second generation fuel cell system – as featured in the Toyota Mirai saloon.

Initial prototype Hilux vehicles will be produced at the manufacturer’s plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire during 2023 and, once successful performance results have been secured, the intention is to start small series production.

This funding will enable TMUK to develop hydrogen technologies for pickups during the next three years and support 250 jobs across the UK over the next decade.

The consortium includes UK-based technical engineering partners Ricardo, ETL, D2H and Thatcham Research.

Research and development teams from Toyota Motor Europe will also provide technical support to help the UK-based specialists build their expertise and become self-sufficient in developing next generation hydrogen drivetrain technologies.

Matt Harrison, Toyota Motor Europe President and CEO, said: “The UK is one of the key markets for pick-up trucks and an important market for Toyota.

“This funding represents a tremendous opportunity to develop a zero emission solution in a critical market segment.”

Meanwhile, a £30 million project, led by Glasgow-based Hydrogen Vehicle Systems (HVS) has been awarded £15 million from the Government via APC to develop a hydrogen fuel cell-powered HGV cab and tractor unit.

The project, which will run until June 2025, comprises a consortium which includes thermal management specialist Grayson, the commercial arm of Strathclyde University specialising in power electronics (PNDC), and automated drive systems specialist Fusion Processing.

The development programme will include the full vehicle’s fuel cell and battery hybrid powertrain, covering engineering, testing and development.

Jawad Khursheed, HVS CEO, said: “Our mission to decarbonise heavy-duty transport in the UK has reached a major milestone with the help of the APC grant.

“The UK Government performed rigorous due diligence in selecting HVS to receive this grant – acknowledging that our advanced technology is a key innovation towards achieving zero-emission targets.

“We have successfully produced our first driving fuel cell technology demonstrator vehicle and are on track to deliver the UK’s first-to-market hydrogen fuel cell-powered HGV.

“We have experienced rapid growth at HVS in as little as a year, now with this government support we will boost innovation, create thousands of UK-based jobs, and build upon our goal towards cleaner HGVs.”

Last year, Tevva received a £4.2 million grant from the APC to be used on the Sangreal Project, a £12.2 million collaboration between the electric truck manufacturer and Advanced Electric Machines (AEM).

This aims to accelerate the development of Tevva’s fuel cell range extended medium to heavy duty commercial electric vehicles for the 7.5 to 19 tonne road transport market.

It also involves the design and development of a new electric transaxle and vehicle propulsion control system with on-board telematics, which is designed to optimise the use of the H2 Fuel Cell Range extender for operating range and reliability and enable predictive and preventative servicing.

Richard Lidstone-Scott, Commercial Director at Tevva said: “Without the APC, we would be looking at a far, far smaller solution.

“By adding hydrogen into the mix, we can address 98% of [the commercial vehicle] market, so we can start greening hundreds of millions of miles as opposed to just millions of miles.”

Ballard Motive Solutions ran a research project, part-funded by the APC’s Automotive Transformation Fund, that found refuse collection was one of the best immediate business cases for the heavy-duty hydrogen fuel cell power trains that it was developing.

Following the successful development of the vehicles, Glasgow City Council ordered a fleet of 20 hydrogen fuel cell refuse collection vehicles in a £7 million deal.

Meanwhile, Norfolk-based Equipmake has developed a drivetrain as part of the APC-funded Cost Effective Low Entry Bus (CELEB) project, with the objective being to deliver a cost-effective bus designed for the South American market.

Working with Argentine-Brazilian bus manufacturer Agrale and Argentine coachbuilder Todo Bus, the firm developed an electric version of the single-deck Agrale MT17.0 LE, installing its own Zero Emission Drivetrain (ZED).

The 12m model, which features a 318kWh lithium-ion battery, and has an estimated range of up to 150 miles, can carry 70 passengers and will be trialled for the next 12 months by Dota, the largest bus operator in Buenos Aires.

Using the licensed Equipmake ZED technology, the objective is for mass manufacturing to eventually begin in Buenos Aires with Agrale and Todo Bus.

Ian Foley, CEO of Equipmake, said: “Through this APC-funded project, we have worked closely with Agrale along with other key partners, and the result is a state-of-the-art yet cost-effective bus.

“Its potential is huge. Buenos Aires has around 16,000 buses alone and electric buses can play a key role in helping the city hit its targets of halving carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050.”

The APC is set to continue to play an important role in bringing together government, the automotive industry and academia to accelerate the industrialisation of technologies, boosting strategically important UK capital and R&D projects and supporting the transition to zero emission vehicles.


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