USW powers fire service's green vehicles

Jon Maddy, director of USW's Hydrogen Centre, at the launch of Mid and West Wales fire service's two new hydrogen-powered vehicles, Neil Gibson

Jon Maddy, director of USW's Hydrogen Centre, at the launch of Mid and West Wales Fire Service's hydrogen-powered vehicles  


THE most abundant element in the universe is now powering two fire service vehicles, which might stop off at a school or street near you.

Bosses at Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service hope the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – which are refuelled at the University of South Wales’s (USW) Hydrogen Centre in Baglan, near Swansea -  could pave the way for a greener fleet without sacrificing operational requirements.

“It is a really exciting opportunity for us,” said deputy chief fire officer Mick Crennell.

The fire service will trial the Hyundai ix35 cars for community safety work in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

It wants to lower its carbon footprint — not that easy when your patch covers two-thirds of Wales — and has previously tested conventional electric and hybrid vehicles.

Mr Crennell said he believed the Hyundais’ 300-mile range could prove decisive, and speculated that hydrogen fuel cells could one day power fire engines.

“Why would we not consider using them in fire engines?” he said. “It is something we would look to develop.”

This would certainly not happen overnight, and discussions with manufacturers would be required.

Mr Crenell said funding for the £35,000 Hyundai ix35s had come via a UK-wide grant scheme.

He said he has not sat behind the wheel of one of them yet, but colleagues had.

“They say it’s quieter, but equal to the power,” he said.

The two vehicles will be refuelled at the University of South Wales’s Hydrogen Centre in Baglan.

The Hydrogen Centre has solar panels which capture the sun’s rays to generate electricity. That electricity is then used to split water into its component elements — hydrogen and oxygen — with the hydrogen then compressed as a gas and pumped into a vehicle.

A fuel cell in the vehicle then reverses the process, turning the gas into electricity, which provides the oomph. This process negates the need for heavy batteries which power conventional electric cars.

Jon Maddy, director of the Hydrogen Centre, said it takes around five minutes to fill up the Hyundai ix35s.

He said that creating hydrogen from intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar could help smooth out the associated peaks and troughs of supply.

“You could use it (the hydrogen) as a vehicle fuel or store it, or even compress it and inject it into the gas grid,” he said.

Mr Maddy added that hydrogen could have a future in powering trains, with one already operational in Germany.

“It is early days, but it is something that should be looked at,” he said.

Mr Maddy hoped car manufacturers would be persuaded more and more by hydrogen’s credentials, but said conventional electric cars would also be attractive.

“The future is about using the appropriate mix,” he said.


Article courtesy of Wales Online.


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