New hydrogen fire engine research study begins

Fire services across Britain could see a technological revolution in the coming years involving the launch into service of fire engines powered by hydrogen thanks to the start of a new research project.

The project will see a hydrogen fuel engineering firm called ULEMCo partner with Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service. Funding for the project has been secured from Innovate UK under the Transition to Zero Emission project.

The eight-month research project will involve creating a detailed model of the hydrogen energy requirement. This will include the energy needed to pump water for a minimum of four hours, as well as the optimal range for such a vehicle. The test process will gather real world data based on the performance of a fuel cell over the course of the project.

ULEMCo will design the hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain for the fire engine, with the goal being a full specification and detailed engineered design for a prototype vehicle. This will enable the next stage of development, which will involve the production of a prototype.

Alongside the study, the county council will develop a plan for the hydrogen refuelling requirements across its fire and rescue service, and wider plans to develop a hydrogen infrastructure across the county.

The project comes as the county council works towards becoming a net zero carbon local authority by 2030 for its own operational emissions.

Councillor Pete Sudbury, Oxfordshire County Council’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.

“I’m delighted that we are partnering with ULEMCo on this innovative feasibility study as an important step in exploring and advancing zero carbon solutions. The county council’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.”

Rob MacDougall, Chief Fire Officer for Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service is absolutely committed to act towards our net zero target and building on the work we have already done to move part of our fleet away from internal combustion engines.

“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.”

Amanda Lyne, Managing Director of ULEMCo, said: “We are excited to be working on this important initiative to plan the future of specialised utility vehicles such as fire tenders. Hydrogen has tremendous potential for enabling zero emission vehicles in the short term.”

Image: courtesy Oxford City Council

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