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ULEMCo and Oxfordshire FRS complete research on zero emission battery electric fire engines

27 May 2022

ZERO EMISSION battery electric fire engines – in combination with hydrogen fuel cells and a minimum of 8 kg of on-board hydrogen fuel storage – will meet the current requirements for flexibility, emergency response and water pumping requirements. This will be invaluable, particularly in rural and semi-urban services and for specialist HGVs with power take-offs where batteries alone will not provide the overall energy needs of the application.

That’s the main conclusion of research just completed by ULEMCo, the hydrogen fuel specialist, who partnered with Oxfordshire County Council and its Fire and Rescue Service in the study.

The study findings are important both for the deployment of fully-functional fire engines across all parts of the UK, but also other specialist vehicles requiring significant power take-off in their operations.

Analysis of the real-world energy requirements of fire appliances, including the requirement in EN 1486 for four hours’ water pumping energy, confirmed that 8 kg of hydrogen with a Toyota Gen2 fuel cell range extender would be sufficient to provide range extension of a 220 kW battery designed base vehicle.

The combination of stored energy in the batteries and hydrogen fuel, which can be refuelled rapidly, are needed to ensure the ‘always ready’ rapid response requirements of the operation.

Speeding up deployment      

A second conclusion from the research work is that this on-board energy strategy incorporating hydrogen fuel could be met within the existing vehicle design, with no compromise to the equipment installation, and would therefore speed up the potential deployment of zero emission vehicles in these types of application.

As part of the project, the existing fire station locations in Oxfordshire were assessed and options proposed for hydrogen refuelling locations that would not only allow the engines to refuel cost effectively, but also provide a facility for the rest of the Oxfordshire public sector fleet.

The key was finding locations where consolidated demand would be over 200 kg per day such that hydrogen infrastructure investors would be able to supply hydrogen at a price/kg similar to existing fuels and ownership cost models.       

Following on from the study, Oxfordshire County Council is evaluating the logistics of establishing a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure with the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, which itself manages a county-wide service covering both the city and the wider urban, semi-urban and rural areas of the county.

Next steps

Amanda Lyne, managing director at ULEMCo, observed: “The next steps for the project include the goal of securing funds to build a prototype fire tender. There’s an overriding desire to demonstrate the flexibility and technical capability of the hydrogen fuel cell range extension approach.”  

Councillor Pete Sudbury, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for climate change and the environment, noted: “This clever combination of battery power with a hydrogen fuel cell range extender is excellent news for those of us who are optimistic that hydrogen could play an important role in the decarbonisation process. Moving heavy duty vehicles like fire engines away from fossil fuels is a difficult challenge, so this is an important step forward in exploring and advancing zero carbon solutions.”

Rob MacDougall, Oxfordshire County Council’s chief fire officer and director of community safety, concluded: “This research is really exciting. We are committed to reducing our emissions in line with the county’s ambitions.”