Hydrogen-powered ‘ambulance of the future’ revealed

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The design of a zero-emission, hydrogen-powered ambulance, which is being hailed as the future for the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, has been revealed with the first prototype due to be put into testing later this year.

ULEMCo, the UK hydrogen fuel pioneer, and their partners have delivered the first significant milestone to create the zero-emission ambulance of the future. The project, named ZERRO for Zero Emission Rapid Response Operations ambulance, is funded by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), and aims to deliver a prototype zero-emission ambulance for the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust (LAS) by autumn this year.

ULEMCo is leading the project, and with its partners has achieved an agreed design for the hydrogen-powered ambulance. This is now progressing to the prototype build stage, which incorporates a hydrogen fuel cell range extender with an electric drive, low frame chassis and bespoke lightweight ambulance body designed and manufactured by Woodall Nicholson Group’s Mellor, Promech Technologies and VCS Limited. It incorporates features to address the specific requirements for a zero-emission ambulance of the future. These include innovations such as a low access floor that removes the need for patient lifting equipment, and a frame-based body that ensures that the overall weight of the vehicle can meet the payload requirements of the service.

Working with ULEMCo and LAS are Lyra Electronics who bring their specialist DC-DC electronics capability, and Ocado with their experience of light-weighting and experience of the practical use of electric vehicles. Promech Technologies is providing its existing battery technology solution and expertise.

The ZERRO project has marked its first birthday with the sign off of the new design. As it now moves to the build phase, the plan is to have the working prototype fully CEN approved and ready for testing in London by the autumn.

“Given the energy need of the NHS ambulance duty cycle, it seems clear that hydrogen fuel is needed to provide both the range and vehicle availability for emergency response requirements”, said Amanda Lyne, managing director of ULEMCo. “Working with Mellor, Promech Technologies and VCS Limited, we have the advantage of designing a bespoke ambulance based on their current battery technology vehicle platform. This has enabled us to apply our capability in integrating hydrogen fuel cell range extension systems, and to prove that this will be a really viable and practical solution for NHS fleets across the UK.”

Chris Rutherford, Head of Fleet Strategy & Transformation at LAS added: “This project is a key part of our strategy for a zero-emission fleet, to support the NHS aim to be the world’s first net-zero national health service, and to meet or exceed the clean air requirements in London.”

John Randerson, chief technology officer at Woodall Nicholson, said: “We’re delighted that three of our companies have been selected to work alongside ULEMCo on the ZERRO project for LAS. We have a proven track record in delivering innovative vehicle solutions in the Blue Light and passenger transport sectors. Through our Promech Technologies company, we continue to develop and expand our new energy expertise.”

“Hydrogen continues to play an increasingly important role in the energy mix,” said Dr Francesca Iudicello, program manager – Automotive at Innovate UK. “We are proud to support this important work, and look forward to seeing the benefits of zero-emission vehicles with a high readiness for service.”

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