A partnership of automotive technology companies has confirmed its aim to overhaul the architecture of clean hydrogen powertrains to create a new and commercially competitive 44-tonne proof-of-concept truck for HGV manufacturers and operators.

With funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre, Viritech, HORIBA MIRA, and Intelligent Energy will combine their market-leading capabilities to deliver engineering solutions for decarbonising the 500,000 HGVs operating on UK roads. These currently produce a disproportionate 19% of the country’s transport emissions, a figure forecast to grow as the size of the national fleet increases.

A 44-tonne battery electric truck requires five tonnes of batteries, cutting the payload by up to 20% and costing £40,000 per year in lost revenue. Hydrogen fuel cells present a far more commercially viable alternative. The partnership between Viritech, HORIBA MIRA and Intelligent Energy aims to optimise the architecture of a hydrogen powertrain for the specific use case of an HGV and deliver a proof of concept truck for OEM and operator testing by late 2024.

As the lead partner, Viritech will bring its proprietary energy management hardware and software, optimised for fuel cells as prime mover, to target mass parity with HGV diesel powertrains to the project. The principle of using the fuel cell as the prime mover in the driveline is supported by Intelligent Energy’s latest generation of specialist fuel cells for heavy-duty applications; engineering consultants HORIBA MIRA will bring its full vehicle engineering experience to bear by delivering the truck’s thermal systems modelling and engineering, systems integration and vehicle optimisation as well as validation and certification to the project.

With HGV viability critically linked to total cost of ownership (TCO) for operators, HORIBA MIRA will be using its experience in developing a digital twin of the ICEBreaker HGV with a driver-in-the-loop capability to pre-validate the vehicle’s TCO credentials.

Project ICEBreaker is a short-term, high-momentum project that commences next month and focuses on the integration of developing technologies to deliver a working proof-of-concept vehicle in the short term.

Timothy Lyons, CEO and Founder of Viritech said, “The ICEBreaker program enables Viritech to move the development of its high-performance hydrogen powertrain technology to the next stage by working with our partners HORIBA MIRA and Intelligent Energy to integrate a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain on a 44-tonne truck, and to demonstrate the huge benefits of this technology to manufacturers and their fleet customers.”