ULEMCo to Convert Aircraft Tow Vehicles to Hydrogen Combustion Hybrid

ULEMCo announces the kick-off of their collaboration with Teesside International Airport, RAF Leeming, and Newcastle University, which will extend the adoption of hydrogen fuel in another specialist vehicle type: airport ground support vehicles. Project ZeHyDA (Zero emission Hydrogen Demonstration for Airport applications) will convert a base aircraft tow tug vehicle to an electric hybrid running with a 100% hydrogen zero emission combustion engine. This will demonstrate the significant reduction in CO2 emissions that can be achieved from these hard-working vehicles.

This is the company’s first mobile application of the zero-emission hydrogen engine technology that it announced in 2019, when it was tested for static generators. The project will enable the engine to work with an electric drivetrain system, and to be demonstrated as part of the Tees Valley Hydrogen Transport Hub in ground support vehicles, alongside work to assess the wider opportunity for use of hydrogen at airports and in the region.

In parallel with the conversion activity, ULEMCo will perform laboratory testing of a large engine conversion that will be suitable for the 7.5 tonne ground support trucks that also work at airports. This will be part of a demonstration of the flexibility of hydrogen combustion technologies, and their ability to decarbonise a wide range of heavy-duty vehicle applications cost effectively. The tests, being assessed with the collaboration of Newcastle University, will show that an engine of this size can be configured to meet the real-world duty cycle requirements of the application, at the same time as delivering no harmful air quality emissions. This is essential in delivering both zero carbon emissions and reducing the impact of combustion engines on health.

“Decarbonising transport requires an ambitious approach from industry, government and academia”, said Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems, Newcastle University and former Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Transport. “The University will bring its world-leading expertise to address the research questions and knowledge gaps arising from the introduction of hydrogen fuel at RAF Leeming and Teesside International Airport.”

“We are delighted to be able to build on the success of our 100% hydrogen static genset engine with this mobile vehicle. Airport ground support vehicles are yet another niche application that can benefit from decarbonisation using hydrogen, without the delay of building a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure.”

Amanda Lyne, Managing Director ULEMCo

“After celebrating our 80th birthday this year, we want Teesside International Airport to continue not only to provide a brilliant experience for our passengers, but to spearhead new initiatives and be at the forefront of airport innovation. Converting our ground support vehicles to hydrogen will help boost our clean energy credentials as part of the UK’s first Hydrogen Transport Hub, maintain our local air quality and drive the UK’s net zero ambitions.”

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor 

“The RAF is very pleased to be involved in this ground-breaking investigation into how hydrogen might play a part in supporting the RAF and wider MOD ambitions and targets to reduce our transport emissions. It will be important as we investigate technologies to transition to zero emission vehicles fleets, become more fuel resilient, and understand the potential operational advantages and challenges of hydrogen use. This project is a key element of the wider RAF Net Zero strategy and programme of activities: lessons learned and recommendations will be shared within the MOD.”

Gp Capt Maurice Dixon for RAF Leeming

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