Test Milestone For Hydrogen Power

| Transport

The X1.5 test mule arrives at the test facility as the first physical prototype

Prototype goods vehicles will become test mules as testing phase begins for hydrogen fuel cell powertrains

Zero-emission, hydrogen-powered commercial vehicle innovator, Hydrogen Vehicle Systems (HVS), has built its engineering prototype test “mule”, the X1.5, and delivered it to the company’s test facilities. This marks the beginning of the crucial development phase to bring the UK’s first full-sized hydrogen HGV to market.

The X1.5, powered by the same state-of-the-art hydrogen fuel cell as will be used in the planned production HGVs, will be used for functionality and systems development, including dynamometer testing, and is an important precursor to track testing prototypes that will quickly follow.

The delivery of the X1.5 is a key milestone for HVS which, following the successful launch of its HGV technology demonstrator in April this year, has been focusing on bringing this transformative vehicle to market.

John McKenna, Chief Technical Officer, HVS, said; “The team and I are thrilled that the X1.5 engineering prototype has arrived at our test facility, and we can now begin the vital development phase of testing the hydrogen fuel-cell technology on the dyno-rig. Maximising the performance of the fuel cell is a key step ahead of beginning on-track testing and bringing this exciting new HGV to market.”

Designed and engineered from a clean sheet approach, HVS’ zero-emission hydrogen electric HGV is set to decarbonise the hardest-to-abate section of the transport industry, heavy haulage. HGVs currently make up 1.5% of all vehicles on the road yet produce 19% of the emissions. HVS’ range of HGVs will emit only 693ml of water per kilometre as a by-product of the hydrogen fuel-cell producing electricity.

Modular Vehicle Platform

Once the prototype testing is complete and HVS goes into production with its clean HGVs, they will be based upon a modular platform, which offers Heavy Goods Vehicle operators maximum flexibility from a single base vehicle.

The company’s tractor unit will be available with two different types of e-axle – one medium power and one high power – and with up to three hydrogen tanks, depending on the customer’s range requirements. In addition, the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain can be specified with two different power outputs depending on the customer’s payload and mission requirements.

The modular platform is built on a fixed wheelbase, which means the vehicle’s footprint does not change, irrespective of specification.

Spacious Cab

HVS’ ground-up designed vehicles have been specifically developed to maximise driver comfort while the platform is purpose built around the hydrogen powertrain. The vehicle’s design includes a suspended cab at the front and a fixed tower at the rear, housing the thermal and powertrain systems.

This platform format breaks with the industry-standard tradition of variable cab types and sizes – such as big, medium and small, and high/low-roof – and means that even the smallest variants have the same spacious cab as the largest models.

According to Pete Clarke, Head of Design at HVS, the company is offering maximum modularity within a single base vehicle platform, and it would never have been able to achieve this level of flexibility and optimisation with a diesel-powertrain derived vehicle design.

The vehicles have been created for a fundamentally different technology within an all-new package, so every cubic millimetre has been designed afresh. HVS initially calculated the maximum wheelbase possible to achieve the required turning circle and manoeuvrability for the target market. The design process then began with the optimal powertrain format, around which the vehicle design was then created – ensuring that form followed function.

“Rather than playing with a configurator, HVS can put the best value package together for customers based on information about what they do, the loads they will carry, along with their ranges and routes,” he says.

Optimum Total Cost of Ownership

The modular platform allows operators to define their HGV specification relative to their operation, while simultaneously transitioning to a zero-emission fleet. HVS’ approach is to ensure that it supplies vehicles in the most appropriate form for the job requirement.

The modular platform’s flexibility is such that the trucks can easily be retrofitted with alternative modules such as additional hydrogen tanks if the fleet’s duties change or expand.

This has the effect of minimising the total cost of ownership (TCO) and provides a compelling business case for early switching to CO2-free vehicles. The company’s emphasis is on price-per-mile usage and ensuring operators achieve the performance, range and durability they require of this next generation of freight workhorses.

Vehicle platform longevity and recycling the electrochemical modules are further benefits of HVS’ modular platform. Its adaptable architecture means core electrochemical modules, including the battery and fuel cell, can be swapped out for more advanced equivalents as the technology changes. This future-proofs the vehicle and vastly increases its potential operational life, while other less-critical components, such as interior trim or body panels, can also be simultaneously refurbished by HVS when a drivetrain upgrade is performed.

HVS’ approach of refurbishment and replacement enables owners to take advantage of technological advancements much more so than conventional diesel trucks or even current battery electric equivalents.

New Drivetrains

HVS is developing new hydrogen drivetrains for its future vehicles, with a focus on delivering maximum power and range for each operational duty class. With this modular platform HVS offers the best available technology meaning that its 4×2 tractor unit provides a highly competitive, zero-emission range of up to 370-mile/600-kilometres.

This enables operators to transition to a zero-emission fleet as soon as possible, by providing early learning opportunities at low risk and affordable costs. The interchangeability of the modular platform means more advanced modules can be added as the penetration of hydrogen HGVs into the market increases and technology matures and benefits from economies of scale, while early adopters will benefit from the knowledge, experience and market profile of operating hydrogen HGVs as part of the necessary transition to low carbon technology.

Green Hydrogen

Based on HVS’ conservative sales projections, by 2030 the new UK fleet of hydrogen HGVs displacing diesel vehicles could prevent considerable quantities of CO2 and noxious air emissions.

HVS says that green hydrogen is an infinitely renewable fuel made using renewable electricity to split water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen. In the fuel cell, hydrogen recombines with oxygen from the air to produce heat, power and water.

Jonathan Newell
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