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Fuelled by Element 2: C-ALPS stakes its claim for hydrogen power research leader with £4m of new engineering contracts

Over £4m of new hydrogen testing contracts have been secured within the Centre for Advanced Low-Carbon Propulsion Systems (C-ALPS). Element 2 has partnered with C-ALPS to guarantee the centre has the quantity of low carbon Fuel Cell grade (ISO 14687) hydrogen it needs to meet demand.

The £50m research centre, a joint investment between Coventry University and global engineering consultancy FEV, is working with some of the world’s leading engine and vehicle manufacturers, electrification start-ups and UK and European research consortia to develop new solutions for e-mobility starts-ups and zero-emission drive systems.

They have only been made possible thanks to the close collaboration of the two partners, who have jointly invested £3m over the last two year in the creation of a state-of-art hydrogen facility capable of testing prototypes and pre-production designs for use in trucks, coaches, off-highway machinery, ships, trains as well as light to medium sized aircraft.

C-ALPS five world class test beds have been upgraded to provide an environment that can test output up to 650kW, with a new tie-up agreed with the UK’s leading hydrogen refuelling business, Element 2, to guarantee the centre has the quantity of low carbon Fuel Cell grade (ISO 14687) hydrogen it needs to meet demand.

Simon Shepherd, Director of the Centre for Advanced Low-Carbon Propulsion Systems, commented: “The latest contracts take the total value of joint projects active and completed at C-ALPS to over £20m. This along with the level of interest we are seeing from partners is sure sign that we have created the environment and the expertise required to support UK partners in meet future propulsion technology demands.

“The joint investment from the university and FEV has been critical to the success of the latest test and development contracts now being delivered and puts us in pole position to be a leading research and development centre for hydrogen propulsion and green hydrogen production in the UK.

“Our approach has been for the university to make the initial investment in cutting-edge facilities to support high-impact research, with FEV offering additional financial and technical support and the long-term business case for the investments through the provision commercial services for customers working on products closer to manufacture.”

Besides research and engineering development, the third role of C-ALPS is to create a real-world training environment for engineers and research specialists of the future and the recent £4m+ contract haul will help deliver more employment opportunities.

So far seven engineers have been taken on as FEV employees – three of whom have come through the university’s undergraduate courses – with 10 PhD students working on joint projects sponsored and co-supervised with FEV in the UK and Germany.

Jörn Behrenroth, Managing Director of FEV UK, emphasises the importance and advantages of the centre: “At C-ALPS, we offer our partners, from both research and industry, the opportunity to put sustainable hydrogen propulsion systems through their paces throughout the entire development cycle from component up to system performance development”

“Access to a reliable and continuous supply of Hydrogen from Element 2 is a key advantage for the centre right now, providing reliable & long term testing for our partners for both fuel-cell and combustion based hydrogen systems.

With C-ALPS, FEV and Coventry University are addressing the continued growth in demand from vehicle manufacturers for development and testing capacity in the field of sustainable mobility. Both British and international OEMs and developers are benefitting from the unique combination of academic expertise and long-term development and engineering know-how.

Andy Slater, Head of Engineering and Asset Management, Element 2, commented: “Element 2 is accelerating the UK’s shift from fossil to renewable fuels. We’re delighted to supply hydrogen to C-ALPS as it tests the next generation of hydrogen engines and fuel cells that will power the nation’s transport as we transition to a zero-carbon, zero-emissions future. Our partnership enables the facility to benefit from a regular, trusted supply of Fuel Cell grade hydrogen to support its test beds.”

FEV, as an internationally recognised engineering service provider, brings to the partnership its in-depth experience of several decades in the fields of propulsion system development and validation, covering internal combustion engines, fuel-cells, battery systems and electric drives.

Simon Shepherd concluded: “Skills and training is another area where the partnership is really excelling, with the university developing electrification short courses to help rapidly scale new capabilities.

“C-ALPS, with the outstanding backing of Coventry University and FEV, is definitely a blueprint for industry and academia to follow, especially if we are looking to solve the current labour and skills shortages.”