IAAPS / UoB key partners in £12.7m project to develop hydrogen fuel-cell powered bus

09 May 2023

The University of Bath / IAAPS have been selected as strategic partners in a £12.7m APC (Advanced Propulsion Centre) funded venture which aims to make clean hydrogen buses a reality and is projected to not only support almost 500 jobs over the next ten years, but also provide CO2 savings of 5.9m tonnes.

Set to run for 30 months, the Hydrogen Electric Integrated Drivetrain Initiative (HEIDI) project will demonstrate a fuel cell/battery hybrid powertrain on a double-decker bus. This novel product will be cheaper than the equivalents currently available for large vehicles such as buses and uses innovative new electronics and energy recovery technologies. The APC has provided £6.3m of funding as part of the Automotive Transformation Fund in support of ambitions to build an end-to-end supply chain for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in the UK. This has been matched by industry to a total of £12.7m.

The University of Bath (UoB), along with compressor supplier Aeristech and electric powertrain provider Equipmake, will support fuel cell specialist Bramble Energy, which leads the project, in the development of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus, with key aspects of the testing and validation process to be conducted at IAAPS’ state-of-the-art R&I centre.

In the first instance, IAAPS / UoB researchers will be modelling a fuel cell propulsion system to help with system specification for the bus application and subsequently looking at its transferability to other vehicle types. In the second half of the project, the fuel cell system will be tested at the IAAPS facility connected to a virtual model of different vehicle type and powertrain designs to assess its performance in different vehicles. This will not only facilitate the creation of new system models that account in particular for thermal transients and fuel cell degradation, but also produce new experimental approaches for Hardware in the Loop testing of fuel cells with virtual powertrains / vehicles.

“This project will represent a major step towards commercialisation of affordable hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Whilst hydrogen will not solve all our mobility challenges, it certainly has a significant role to play across many vehicle types and the HEIDI project will demonstrate its use as complement to Battery Electric Vehicles. For IAAPS, this project is significant as it represents the first opportunity for us to test a full fuel cell system, progressing our research from air handling and simulation of the stack to full system experimentation,” says Professor Richard Burke, Academic Director, IAAPS.

"Two strategic hurdles for fuel cell powertrains are development cost and lifetime uncertainty. By embedding digital innovation, the HEIDI project will accelerate the development of future fuel cell powertrains. This project will involve the development of scalable fuel cell and vehicle models, validated through state-of-the-art HiL testing, and will serve as a template for sustainable and equitable mobility solutions,” adds Dr Tom Fletcher, Lecturer in Electrified Automotive Propulsion Systems, who is leading the project at IAAPS / UoB.

Commenting on the collaborative approach of the project, Dr Vidal Bharath, CCO at Bramble Energy, concurs: “Fuel cell technology can deliver a viable net zero solution that lends itself to commercial vehicles where downtime needs to be limited. This consortium of partners means that we will be able to deliver a world-leading hybridised powertrain, utilising our innovative low cost PCBFC technology for the bus sector, where there needs to be a viable electrified solution that can deliver on cost and scalability.”  

Chief Executive at the APC, Ian Constance, also highlights the significance of the partnership: “Investment into these collaborative projects continues the work that the UK does very well. Research and development, building the automotive supply chain, pushing the boundaries of clean technology for the road, whilst securing jobs across the country. I’m pleased to have well-known brand names among this funding round through the APC, as well as innovative SMEs bringing through exciting new developments.” 

09 May 2023