The vehicles are driven over the New European Drive Cycle – a stylised cycle designed to simulate not only stop-start urban driving, but also highway cruises. It involves using a machine called a rolling road, which simulates a series of hills and a motorway cruise to determine the power and torque of the vehicle.
Flame ionisation detectors and bag samplers are used to establish the portion of the gases removed from the exhausts that are pollutants or greenhouse gases. The vehicles have been proven to be comprehensively cleaner than is required for Euro 5 emissions standards and produce no CO2. The only emissions produced are traces of oxides of nitrogen (NOx).
The rolling road is basically a metal rolling cylinder. The vehicle is aligned with the cylinder so that the tyre is placed over it and the vehicle’s wheel can then be used to turn it once the engine is switched on. Torque and force can be applied to the roller to simulate different driving scenarios, such as various high loads that the vehicle might carry, or a steep gradient of a hill.
Twenty-one partners have shown an interest in ITM’s hydrogen on-site trials project and will be trialling the vans over the next year. The partners consist of companies across a series of sectors that will use the vehicles for different purposes, including London Stansted Airport, logistics firm DHL, Scottish Water, public services provider Amey, holiday company Center Parcs, as well as Sheffield and Southampton city councils.
Selected drivers at each of the 21 companies will take it in turns to use the vans, while equipment in the vehicles will take readings of their performance. ITM will then look into any issues that arise.
The vehicles are fitted with GPS datalogging equipment to trace the routes and the duties required for the vehicles, and Canbus datalogging equipment, used to monitor engine performance, degradation and fuel consumption. The same datalogging equipment may be used to establish the cause of any issues that may arise, sampling data at tiny fractions of a second. In addition, the datalogging may be used to establish how hard the vehicles are being worked and as a result any deficiency in performance can be substantiated.
The vans are also equipped with leak detection strategies that monitor the engine consumption of hydrogen and compare it to the state of the hydrogen tanks in the vehicle. By monitoring any discrepancy between the two, it is possible to measure any leaks down to fractions of a gram of hydrogen per minute, and flag up any leaks. Two set points for low and high level leaks, which are indicated to the driver by a flashing light or buzzer, are used to disable the vehicle in the event of any leak substantial enough to pose a risk to safety.
Hallett says of the systems in the vans: “We can measure how hot the engine is getting, how hot the air is getting, as well as how much fuel the vehicles are using. By analysing all of that we can understand how well suited the vehicle and the engine and the powertrain is to the partner’s requirements. If they are underpowered we’d need to address that.
“It’s very much a qualitative analysis of their use and their requirements for hydrogen vehicles,” he adds.
It will be interesting to see just how well ITM’s vans perform over the next 12 months. But it is unlikely that all 21 business partners will be so pleased with the vans’ performance that they will want to continue to use them, Hallett admits.
“Most people would be able to use them to some extent,” he says. “But we know they are not going to be ideal for everyone.”
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if more companies follow in ITM Power’s hydrogen-fuelled footsteps in an attempt to bring more of the vehicles to the market.