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Millbrook joins APC-funded consortium to develop fuel cell range-extended electric LCVs

Millbrook, one of Europe’s leading independent test and technology centers for vehicles and vehicle systems, will join a UK industry consortium to develop a new class of light commercial vehicle (LCV) combining fuel cell technology with battery electric vehicles to provide significantly improved range and rapid refueling. The consortium, led by Intelligent Energy (earlier post), will receive a £6.3-million ($9.3-million) grant from the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) for the £12.7-million ($19-million) project. The other partners are Frost Electronics, Frost EV, CENEX, British Gas and DHL.

The three-year project will develop validated systems and vehicle conversion expertise ready for volume manufacture. The goal is also to provide fleet operators with a solution that enables vehicle operation for extended periods while being emissions-free at the tailpipe.

The collaborative project is intended to minimize technical and commercial risk by initially targeting captive and commercial fleet operators. It will provide a package that can be integrated into vehicles as an end-of-line fitment at an OEM, or through a new-vehicle conversion facility, or by retro-fitting at approved centers.

Fuel cell systems can be used to increase battery electric vehicle range while maintaining zero emissions. The light commercial vehicle systems developed during this programme will offer operational advantages through increased access to restricted emission zones combined with faster refueling times than battery pack recharging alternatives. The consortium will work in conjunction with a steering group including vehicle manufacturers, government agencies and major fleet operators.

APC. The Advanced Propulsion Centre was formed in 2013 from a commitment between the government and automotive industry through the Automotive Council to position the UK as a global center of excellence for low carbon powertrain development and production. It is a central pillar of the Industrial Strategy created by the Automotive Council.

The fuel cell range extender is one of four projects newly funded by APC. The others are:

  • A new generation of electric and hybrid buses to be developed by Wrightbus and its partners in Northern Ireland. The partners will receive a grant of £4.3 million ($6.4 million) in a £8.6-million ($12.7 million) program.

  • A high efficiency transmission and electric drive by hofer powertrain UK, which will receive £16.4 million ($24.3 million) in a £32.8-million ($48.6-million) program.

  • £13 million ($19.2 million) to develop innovative technologies for UK-built diesel engines for off-highway use and exported worldwide by Perkins Engines Company Limited in a £25.1-million ($37.2 million) project with its partners.

With these latest awards, the APC has now committed investment for ten low carbon propulsion projects. The first two rounds of investments by the APC in 2014 covered six project consortia:

  • Ford and its partners received a £13.1-million ($19.4-million) grant for their £100-million ($148-million) program to upgrade the award-winning EcoBoost engine.

  • GKN Land Systems and its partners received a £7.5-million ($11.1-million) grant as part of a £16-million ($23.7-million) project to apply motorsport energy recovery technology for use in buses. The Gyrodrive system is designed to save the braking energy of a bus as it slows to stop and use it to accelerate the bus back up to speed. By avoiding wasting the energy every time a bus stops the system is projected to deliver fuel savings in the order of 25%.

  • Cummins and its partners received a £4.9-million ($7.25-million) grant for a £9.9-million ($14.7-million) project to deliver significant reductions in carbon emissions from bus engines through the development of new stop-start diesel engine technology. This will improve fuel consumption by 10 to 18%.

  • JCB and its partner Flybrid received a £3.3-million ($4.9-million) grant as part of a £7.3-million ($10.8-million) project to apply Formula 1 technology for use in diggers. This will reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions resulting in a substantially reduced carbon footprint for construction projects using this machinery. On average, the carbon emissions of a single 20 tonne excavator will be reduced by an estimated 16 tonnes per year.

  • Jaguar Land Rover and its partners received £32 million ($47.4 million) for two new projects to research manufacturing technology for electric motors and develop cleaner internal combustion engines.

The competition for the fourth round of APVC investments opens for submissions in early May 2015 with up to £100 million ($148 million) available. The winners will be announced in autumn 2015. Applications are invited from consortia with low carbon propulsion technology projects between £5 million ($7.4 million) and £40 million ($59 million) for technology that is at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 4.



This parallels the project by Renault and Symbio putting 50 Kangoo ZE vans on the road for La Poste with FCEV RE's.

The DOE is also encouraging the technology for delivery vehicles.

Maybe the equation will change if solid state batteries or something come good, but for the moment this is the feasible way to increase range without hitting load too badly.


Excellent projects with diesel engines as possible exceptions (who needs more fossil-biofuel burning machines).

FC-PHEVs could become an excellent interim clean solution for the next 10 to 15 years or until the arrival of affordable 10X batteries.

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