Study finds hydrogen with battery energy storage can deliver a zero-emission fire engine

Research conducted by ULEMCo, a hydrogen solutions provider, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxfordshire Fire Service has concluded that it is possible to build hydrogen battery-electric fire tenders.

Hydrogen fuel cells and a minimum of 8kg of onboard hydrogen fuel storage will meet current requirements for flexibility, emergency response and water pumping capacity. 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.  

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

Real-world energy requirements for fire trucks

Analysis of the real-world energy requirements of fire appliances, including the requisite in EN1486 for four hours of 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 220kW battery designed base vehicle. The combination of stored energy in the batteries and hydrogen fuel, which can be refuelled rapidly, ensures the always ready, rapid response requirements of the operation.       

Existing vehicle design maintained

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

Hydrogen infrastructure

As part of the project, the existing fire station locations in Oxfordshire were assessed, and options were proposed for hydrogen refuelling locations that would not only enable the engines to refuel cost-effectively but also provide facilities for the rest of the Oxfordshire’s public sector fleet. The key was finding locations where consolidated demand would be over 200 kg a day so that hydrogen infrastructure investors would be able to supply hydrogen at a price/kg similar to existing fuels and ownership cost models.       

Prototype hydrogen fire tender

‘The next steps with the project are to secure funding to build a prototype fire tender,’ said Amanda Lyne, Managing Director of ULEMCo. ‘We shall demonstrate the flexibility and technical capability of the hydrogen fuel cell range extension approach.’  

Moving away from fossil fuels 

Councillor Pete Sudbury, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment, said: ‘This clever combination of battery power with 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 in exploring and advancing zero-carbon solutions.’

Following the study, Oxfordshire Council is evaluating the logistics of establishing a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure with Oxfordshire Fire Service, which manages a countywide service covering both the City and the wider urban, semi-urban and rural areas of Oxfordshire.