Yorkshire Ambulance: Hydrogen Ambulances – change is in the air

Posted: 5/10/2018
Alexis Percival, Environmental and Sustainability Manager, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust explains why Hydrogen has become a real alternative…

At Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS), we have been busy striving to reduce the emissions of our vehicles by working towards a zero-emission fleet. With an increase in the amount of emergency calls up by 4% on an annual basis, we struggle to reduce our carbon footprint from our fleet through mileage reduction alone.
Currently, all YAS fleet vehicles are Euro V at best as there are no ultra-low emission vehicles commercially available that fit the requirements for our front line ambulances (200 mile minimum range) and patient transport (150 mile range, so we have struggled to change our fleet to low emission vehicles. 

The downtime of recharging vehicles is also restrictive as our vehicles have to be available 24/7. We must, therefore, strive to reduce our fleet emissions through other means, altering the types of fuel that our fleet use, retrofit and innovate.  We have a carbon management plan and sustainability plan that is striving to achieve a zero-emission fleet. 

Hydrogen-electric vehicles
With grant funding from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles, Yorkshire Ambulance have procured two hydrogen-electric hybrids Kangoo ZE H2 on to the fleet.  

These vehicles are electric Renault Kangoo ZE converted by Arcola Symbio to run with a hydrogen range extender.  They work by the electric motor ensuring a zero emission propulsion. The hydrogen fuel cell produces electricity on board. Both the battery and the hydrogen fuel cell power the motor and when the powertrain doesn’t require energy, the fuel cell charges the battery. The battery recharges from the grid and the hydrogen can be replenished at the hydrogen refuelling station.

The range of the 700 bar vehicles is 220 miles, doubling the range of the electric vehicle. The recharging time for the battery ranges from four hours to 12 hours (depending on the power supply (3 phase or 13amp plug)). Hydrogen refuelling takes three minutes at a hydrogen refuelling station – akin to the conventional refuelling station.

As part of the awareness of this new vehicle within the fleet we have conducted a full risk assessment on the vehicles as well as issues associated with having a hydrogen technology located within buildings. A full employee engagement programme is being undertaken to educate staff on the new technology as well as the refuelling process. These vehicles will be assessed as to their suitability as well as fully integrate the vehicles into the fleet. The assessment period for this vehicle technology is three years. The only emission from these vehicles is water from the exhaust.

Hydrogen Diesel vehicles
Collaborating with the lead partner, ULEMCo, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust along with Westminster City Council, Veolia, London Fire Brigade, Commercial Group, Ocado and Aberdeen City Council are converting a range of their vehicles to dual fuel hydrogen including refuse trucks, HGV road sweepers, a patient transport vehicle and delivery vans. 

The project will demonstrate both the emission reduction potential of hydrogen, replacing diesel, as well as the practical advantages of dual fuel operation. Through an OLEV funded bid, we are working on a hydrogen retrofit to a patient transport vehicle located in South Yorkshire. The vehicle conversion will be carried out in January 2017.  

The harmful air polluting emissions from a conventional diesel engine are dramatically reduced by displacing the diesel with significant volumes zero carbon hydrogen fuel.

Hydrogen Infrastructure
We have conducted an assessment of our fleet and the how we will have to respond to a changing vehicle type, fuel infrastructure and a vehicle refuelling process in our ‘Fleet for the Futures’ document.  

Our assessment of the future fuels has lead to collaborative work with a wide range of other fleet and infrastructure organisations to implement electric and hydrogen refuelling stations across the region. We are developing a hydrogen-electric ambulance. We have considered the impact of a potential Clean Air Zone being implemented in the centre of Leeds. This will have a large impact on the requirements of our fleet across the region. 

One of the challenges of creating an alternative zero-fuelled fleet (i.e. not petrol/diesel/CNG/LPG) is the implementation and siting of infrastructure. At present in the UK there are 14 hydrogen refuelling stations. Our vehicles will refuel at a refuelling station located in Sheffield that converts electricity, generated from wind power, into hydrogen – a green fuel from production to use.

To become a truly zero-emission fleet, we have to look at how we can adapt to the new fuel horizon as well as build the vehicles that will emit nothing but air and water.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust www.yas.nhs.uk 
ULEMco, hydrogen vehicle converters ulemco.com 
Arcola Symbio, hydrogen vehicle converters www.arcolaenergy.com/symbio-fcell