South Derbyshire District Council -Trials Hydrogen Refuse Vehicles

2 April 2024

Grant funded hydrogen refuse vehicle trials 

Following a bid for funding, South Derbyshire District Council (SDDC) was awarded a grant via the UK’s agency for innovation, Innovate UK, and Local Enterprise Partnership D2N2 to conduct a six month trial on two hydrogen dual fuel refuse vehicles, and the supporting temporary refuelling infrastructure. The vehicles, converted to run on hydrogen dual fuel, can significantly cut harmful emissions and contribute to carbon neutral fleet operation.    

The objectives of the project were clear: SDDC has made a commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Three key areas identified as fundamental to achieving this are: renewable energy, transport and buildings.

Hydrogen Solutions for Transport

When considering options for carbon reduction with transport, one challenge became apparent. Although vans and standard vehicles could transition to electric, the very rural, elongated operational area or South Derbyshire means that electric Refuse Collection Vehicles are currently not practical for the Council to operate on its fleet, and potentially far too costly to become replacement vehicles.

The Council liaised with Toyota Manufacturing UK Ltd, at their vehicle manufacturing plant located at Burnaston in Derbyshire, to discuss their own journey using hydrogen technology to fuel vehicles, and engaged with ULEMCo who are experts in Hydrogen Solutions for Transport.  ULEMCo is a leading developer of technology that enables commercial vehicles to convert current diesel combustion engines to run on hydrogen – diesel dual fuel.

Through engagement with ULEMCo, the Council recognised The Procurement Partnership Limited (TPPL) as an organisation capable of supporting a unique technical procurement process for not only the conversion of vehicles to hydrogen hybrid technology, but also the hydrogen infrastructure to support them.

“Our inclusion on the TPPL framework has been really important to our success in supplying hydrogen transport solutions for the public sector”, said Amanda Lyne, Managing Director of ULEMCo. “TPPL really helps SMEs meet procurement processes and to get highly innovative approaches and technology into real world use.

“In this case, the two refuse trucks are already in use, and are therefore saving many hundreds of tonnes of GHG emissions. As a trial, this really points the way to helping councils like South Derbyshire to deliver on their net zero targets.” 

Hydrogen Supply Solution

Following a comprehensive process, Fuel Cell Systems was identified as the preferred hydrogen refuelling supplier to support the trial. The plan is to monitor the performance of the vehicles during the trial period both technically and operationally, including assessment of driver use, public perception, and procurement challenges. A ‘playbook’ can be written for other district councils when considering this solution to help them decarbonise.

The grant supported the Council with the cost of the ULEMCo hydrogen dual fuel conversion works to two new Dennis Eagle refuse vehicles, procured prior to the trial. The grant also supports the additional cost of hydrogen compared with diesel. The trial will run for five months and commenced at the beginning of December 2023. The Council has already realised a 40% reduction in tailpipe emissions and diesel displacement compared with conventionally fuelled versions operating on fleet.

Whilst deployment of the infrastructure and vehicles provided various challenges due to the new technology involved, the need for handholding and specific operator training was critical and scoped into the procurement specification, supported by TPPL.

Matt Holford, Head of Environmental Services at SDDC, commented: “The Council couldn’t have done it without TPPL’s expertise and support in this industry. The support received was fantastic throughout a complex and lengthy process.”

James Brennan, Managing Director of TPPL commented “We were delighted to be approached by South Derbyshire District Council to support them with this innovative project. Our procurement solutions and services have been developed to support local authorities with decarbonisation initiatives. We hope the output from this trial will help other district councils make an informed evaluation on the viability of hydrogen as a fuel source for their own refuse fleets”.

The temporary mobile refuelling solution has been provided via Fuel Cell Systems limited and BOC, both of which are appointed to the TPPL and Highland Council hydrogen infrastructure and supply procurement solution.

Tom Chicken, CTO of Fuel Cell Systems commented “Vehicle trials such as the one at SDDC, are key to demonstrating hydrogen as a practical solution for commercial vehicle fleets. Our hydrogen refuelling products are modular, scalable and affordable, enabling councils across the UK to conduct trials before making a significant investment. The support of TPPL has been invaluable to facilitate this”

D2N2 is one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships working across England to support business growth and level up productivity. Its ambition is to improve the productivity of the Derbyshire economy and the standard of living of residents in the area.