Analysis of a supply chain survey by the NCC highlights current UK capabilities and potential across key technology areas, including hydrogen storage, power electronics and high-power batteries
The National Composites Centre (NCC) and Arcola Energy, the UK’s leading integrator of hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) traction, have published the key findings of a UK Hydrogen Supply Chain Survey, undertaken as part of an Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) project aiming to build a strong supply chain to support the decarbonisation of heavy-duty vehicles.
The survey captures data from approximately 175 industrial actors, some with existing operations and others with latent capabilities in the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) powertrain market. The findings suggest that key areas of opportunity and current supply chain strengths include hydrogen storage, high-power batteries and power electronics, machines and drives (PEMD), among others, with investment in R&D, vehicle deployment and infrastructure essential to progress.
The total UK market for heavy-duty vehicles is around 50,000 units in the UK and 320,000 across the EU, with volumes expected to increase by 10% to 2030. Despite their relatively small numbers, transport such as lorries, trucks and buses are responsible for a quarter of road transport CO² emissions and 6% of total emissions.
“It is clear that the increased use of hydrogen and fuel cells for powertrains is going to be significant in the heavy-duty transport sector across the next decade,” said Richard Kemp-Harper, Strategy Director, Arcola Energy. “At present, reliance on battery technology alone is not sufficient to meet the government’s zero emissions targets in the outlined timeframes – this is especially true for long-distance applications.
“A key takeaway from NCC’s analysis is understanding how important clear and concise coordination in this space is – through strategic collaboration and government support to effectively define the parameters of a new zero-emission market for heavy-duty vehicles. Now is the time to act to reap the long-term benefits.”
Ed Goodman, NCC project lead, added: “The NCC was delighted to work alongside Arcola, drawing on their deep technical knowledge to produce a report which will give potential UK suppliers key specifications and opportunities for their existing and upcoming products. The NCC and wider High Value Manufacturing Catapult will utilise the findings of the survey to shape our support to UK manufacturers, so that they can extract maximum value from the upcoming deployment of heavy-duty hydrogen vehicles.”
Based on the survey results, the NCC and Arcola Energy recommend a coordinated programme based on the following key principles:
- At-scale deployment of a significant number of semi-standardised vehicles, integrated in the UK by organisations such as Arcola, using best-in-class technology. These vehicles will evolve to be used as living test beds to validate UK-developed technology with minimal risk to integrators.
- Supply chain integration and learning for suppliers in the segment, who will have open access to vehicle integrators – subsequently gaining knowledge of market gaps, performance requirements and reliability and operational challenges.
- Market development created by at-scale deployment, instilling real demand for FCEV and BEV common components.
- Import substitution for R&D to develop and replace imported components, as domestic technology matures and exceeds best-in-class.
- Funding the programme to identify how and where support can be aligned to application-driven research, through to manufacturing scale-up of products that displace imported technology.
- Networking and standardisation bringing together supply and demand and driving standardisation of vehicle requirements and selection across local and regional initiatives – enabling integrators and supply chains to benefit from economies of scale and product competitiveness.
Addressing the report recommendations, Arcola Energy will be leading a hydrogen road freight (SHyFT) study in Scotland in collaboration with freight operators. The objective of the study is to identify early adopters with a strong drive to decarbonise operations and specify vehicle and infrastructure requirements based on these operator’s use cases.
About Arcola Energy
Arcola Energy is a leader in hydrogen and fuel cell integration, specialising in zero-emission solutions for heavy-duty vehicles and transport applications. As a systems engineering specialist and Tier 1 integrator, Arcola addresses the deployment gap between rapidly evolving low-carbon technologies and efficient real-world applications by developing market-ready solutions, reducing development cost and time-to-market.
About the National Composites Centre
The NCC is the UK's world-leading composite research and development facility; where innovators come when they need to make things lighter, stronger, smarter and more sustainable. With access to 'beyond' state-of-the-art technology and the best composites engineering capabilities in the world, the NCC collaborates with customers to solve the most complex engineering challenges of our time.