Hydrogen fuel cells are a highly-disruptive technology. However, there are few UK-based organisations that have fuel cell technology which could be market ready in the near future.
Intelligent Energy (IE) represents one of the UK’s most innovative organisations when it comes to the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology and through the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s (APC) open competitions it has enabled IE, and its partners’ innovations to reach the point of market readiness.
ZERE, the £6.3m match-funded project, was established to develop and provide a real-world trial of Intelligent Energy’s 4kW fuel cell, taking it to the point where it is ready for mass production.
The project was launched in 2015 with the objective of developing IE’s core fuel cell technology for application in a fuel cell range extender for light commercial vehicles. As with many R&D projects, the consortium suffered significant challenges due to early market adoption and with partners leaving the consortium.
The APC team worked extensively with the resulting consortium to re-align the project with the best route to market application to support the core fuel cell development activity and a new OEM partner (Suzuki) was brought into the collaboration. The project’s ongoing delivery safeguarded the Motive Development Team within IE, which would otherwise have been at significant risk of loss and would have resulted in redundancies.
This collaboration has allowed the development of the next generation of the fuel cell engine, exploitation of the 4kW fuel cell system via Suzuki’s Burgman 2-wheel scooter and introduced the Japanese-based automaker to the support available for R&D in the UK for the first time. The collaboration with Suzuki through the APC project has been instrumental in successfully securing an 18-month real-world trial of the technology with the Metropolitan Police – one of the first trials of its kind for hydrogen technology in the UK, that has the potential for significant future contributions to the clean air strategy for London.
The project has also supported further investment by IE in a UK-based manufacturing line and the core technology. The knowledge and learnings that have been developed will be applied to new product streams including remote power systems and drones.
In addition to the development and testing of the technology, the project is also addressing the changes to the refuelling infrastructure that need to be made for smaller hydrogen vehicles.
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