The UK government has announced a £77m funding pot to develop zero-emission heavy vehicles such as buses, ambulances and fire engines.
The funding comprises £38.4m from public funds and £38.7m from players in the automotive industry. More than half of the funding pot will be allocated towards hydrogen vehicle projects. The largest share of the funding, £16.3m, will be granted to Ford to design and develop a hydrogen-powered version of its Ford Transit van, in collaboration with powertrain specialist AVL, Ocado and BP.
Ulemco, a company that develops hydrogen fuel cell range extenders, will receive a £7.9m share of the funding to be applied in vehicles like fire engines and ambulances. Bramble Energy is developing a hybrid powertrain for double-decker buses, combining hydrogen fuel cells with electric vehicle (EV) technologies to cut costs and extend ranges, and will receive £12.7m. Jaguar Land Rover will receive £12.6m to develop next-generation inverters for EVs, which convert DC power to AC power used in an EV motor.
The funding has been awarded through the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s Collaborative Research and Development programme. The government estimates that this funding will create or safeguard more than 4,400 jobs while helping UK companies to “stay ahead of the competition” on zero-emission vehicles. The move towards zero-emission vehicles is part of the government’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030, and to phase out the sale of new HGVs with internal combustion engines by 2040.
The transport sector has been the highest-emitting sector in the UK since 2016, with road transport accounting for the biggest share of its climate impact. The new funding will help the UK to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, and to remain at the forefront of zero-emission vehicle technology.
Challenges for the implementation of zero-emission heavy vehicles include the cost of development and production, and the need for a supportive infrastructure, such as the availability of hydrogen refuelling stations. However, the funding allocation for hydrogen vehicle projects in particular demonstrates the government’s commitment to the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology, which has the potential to reduce emissions significantly.