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UK Initiative: Hydrogen Trucks for Heavy Goods Vehicles

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A consortium of automotive technology firms has announced its ambitious mission to revolutionize the design of clean hydrogen powertrains, with the goal of creating an innovative and commercially competitive 44-tonne proof-of-concept truck tailored for heavy goods vehicle manufacturers and operators.

Backed by funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre, Viritech, HORIBA MIRA, and Intelligent Energy are pooling their collective expertise to devise engineering solutions that address the challenge of decarbonizing the 500,000 heavy goods vehicles currently in operation on UK roads. These vehicles are responsible for a disproportionate 19% of the nation’s transportation emissions, a percentage that is projected to rise with the expanding national fleet. Presently, a 44-tonne battery electric truck requires a hefty five tonnes of batteries, leading to a payload reduction of up to 20% and annual revenue losses of £40,000. In contrast, hydrogen fuel cells offer a more economically viable alternative. The collaboration between Viritech, HORIBA MIRA, and Intelligent Energy aims to optimize the hydrogen powertrain architecture specifically for heavy goods vehicles and deliver a proof-of-concept truck for OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and operator testing by late 2024.

Viritech, as the lead partner, will contribute its proprietary energy management hardware and software, fine-tuned for fuel cells as the primary propulsion source, with the objective of achieving cost parity with diesel powertrains for heavy goods vehicles. Intelligent Energy will support this approach with its latest generation of specialized fuel cells designed for heavy-duty applications. Engineering consultancy firm HORIBA MIRA will leverage its extensive experience in vehicle engineering to handle thermal systems modeling, engineering, systems integration, vehicle optimization, as well as validation and certification for the project.

Given that the viability of heavy goods vehicles is closely linked to the total cost of ownership (TCO) for operators, HORIBA MIRA plans to employ its expertise in developing a digital twin of the ICEBreaker HGV, complete with a driver-in-the-loop capability, to pre-validate the vehicle’s TCO credentials.

Project ICEBreaker is a high-velocity, short-term endeavor set to commence next month. It will concentrate on integrating emerging technologies to swiftly produce a functional proof-of-concept vehicle.

Timothy Lyons, CEO and Founder of Viritech, remarked: “The ICEBreaker program enables Viritech to advance the development of its high-performance hydrogen powertrain technology by collaborating with our partners HORIBA MIRA and Intelligent Energy to integrate a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain into a 44-tonne truck. Our aim is to showcase the substantial advantages of this technology to manufacturers and their fleet clients.”

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