UCD team’s hydrogen-powered freight idea wins ESB award

25 Nov 2020

Image: © Nordreisender/Stock.adobe.com

Four students from UCD will represent Ireland at the international ENGCOMM 2021 competition for their hydrogen-powered freight concept.

University College Dublin (UCD) students, Aoife Cunningham from Kildare, Scott Mulligan from Dublin, Allannah Duffy from Mayo and Benjamin Fitzpatrick from Dublin, will represent Ireland at the international engineering and commerce competition, ENGCOMM 2021 after their team won this year’s ESB Inter-Colleges Challenge.

Students from across the island of Ireland were set the challenge of setting out a vision for a hydrogen economy in 2030 with a specific focus on transport and moving the country’s freight sector to net-zero carbon emissions.

Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are seen as one option for powering large vehicles over ranges longer than those commonly achieved by electric vehicles (EVs). However, unlike EVs, which are charged through a cable, FCEVs are refuelled in a similar way to petrol or diesel cars.

In an FCEV, pressurised hydrogen gas is pumped into a tank on board the car, which is combined in a fuel cell with oxygen to power an electric motor. The resulting waste product emitted from the back of the car is just water vapour, unlike internal combustion engine vehicles.

Winning idea

The UCD team proposed a combined vehicle leasing and hydrogen fuel provision package for HGV’s using wind-generated electricity to produce hydrogen from water. The judges felt this approach offered both technical and commercial benefits to the energy provider, fleet operator and vehicle manufacturer.

A total of 36 students from nine colleges took part in the competition, with UCD pipping teams from Queen’s University Belfast and Cork IT in the grand final. Participants were tested over a full range of engineering, financial, marketing and team working skills.

Other winners on the day included Waterford Institute of Technology for Best Technical Solution and last year’s overall winners, Technological University Dublin for Best Commercial Solution.

Commenting on the award winners, ESB’s executive director for customer solutions, Marguerite Sayers, said: “The quality of the work undertaken by each of the teams over the two days demonstrates their ability to think critically and creatively about the challenges facing Ireland and the energy sector in the transition to a low carbon future.

“Each team worked incredibly well together in different circumstances this year as our event took place online for the first time due to Covid-19.”

Earlier this month, the first ever FCEV put into public service in Ireland took to the roads of Dublin as part of a multiweek, in-service trial. The hydrogen-powered bus is travelling on different routes operated by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus, as well as by Dublin City University and Dublin Airport this month and December.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic