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09 May 2023

£77 million investment for UK heavy duty and commercial vehicle projects

Advanced Propulsion Centre UK

Seven collaborative research and development projects benefitting. They include:  

  • Zero-emission ambulances and fire engines  
  • Decarbonised commercial buses, vans, and HGVs 
  • Boosted power electronics for high-end electric vehicles


The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) is investing £77 million in seven UK-based automotive collaborative research and development projects. The seven projects, each involving a group of companies working in partnership on green transport technology, will each benefit from industry support, together with a government grant.  

The £77 million awarded today is made up of £38.4 million from Government, backed by a further £38.7 million from the automotive industry. A significant commitment to the decarbonisation of transport, and an investment into achieving net-zero in the sector’s supply chain. 

Much of the focus is on how to effectively decarbonise commercial and working vehicles including vans, buses, HGVs, and zero-emission emergency vehicles. This funding enables a range of solutions to be developed, including hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen combustion and battery electric versions. 

The package of support is the 22nd funding round from APC.

  • Ford to design, develop, and build a fleet of 8 hydrogen fuel cell powered Transit vans, with the latest advances in technology 
  • Wrightbus to develop a new world-leading zero-emission battery and hydrogen fuel-cell electric, multi-axle vehicles 
  • ULEMCo creating a zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell range extender for prototype ambulance, fire engine and road sweepers 
  • Bramble Energy developing a hydrogen double-deck bus, using innovative, low-cost fuel cell technology 
  • BorgWarner developing hydrogen combustion systems for heavy-duty commercial transport 
  • Leyland Trucks scaling up the production of electric trucks through innovations in automation and advanced testing 
  • JLR leading a consortium research project to develop a high-efficiency and highly integrated 800V inverter designed and built in the UK 

Ian Constance, Chief Executive at the APC, said: 

“Investment into these seven collaborative projects continues the work that the UK does very well. Research and development, building the automotive supply chain, pushing the boundaries of clean technology for the road, whilst securing jobs across the country. I am pleased to have both well-known brand names among this £77 million funding round through the APC, as well as innovative SMEs bringing through exciting new developments.” 

In total, the projects are expected to support more than 4,440 jobs across the UK over the next decade and save 58.2 million tonnes of CO2 from being emitted. 

Of the well-known names to feature in this funding round, brands such as Wrightbus and Leyland Trucks look to scale up production of zero-emission heavy duty vehicles and buses, with advances multi-axel platform designs and digitalisation of testing, respectively. Whereas BorgWarner will be testing a hydrogen combustion solution to power HGVs and other commercial transport. 

Ford will also pilot the introduction of eight hydrogen fuel cell Transit vans. This follows from an initial APC project to produce a demonstrator, incorporating state-of-the-art digital engineering tools.

Minister for Business and Trade Nusrat Ghani said:

“Zero emission vehicles are increasingly commonplace, from cars on people’s driveways to taxis taking us around town. But this cutting-edge work is going to mean clean, green vehicles designed and built in the UK can increasingly take on the toughest jobs too, from haulage to public transport. Our automotive industry keeps setting the pace globally when it comes to seizing the potential of new technologies. Today’s multi-million-pound boost will help them stay ahead of the international competition, while continuing to support high-quality jobs and economic growth. The collaborative nature of the projects, and one of the key strengths of APC support, means that a number of firms, including smaller sized enterprises, across the UK will be developing their capability.”

ULEMCo is leading a consortium aiming to build zero-emission emergency vehicles and a road sweeper fitted with a hydrogen range extender. This innovation will allow these vehicles to run without the need for lengthy recharging times out of service.  

Similarly, Bramble Energy is another company building a fuel cell solution, this time for buses, progressing from the feasibility study conducted through the APC and funded by the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) last year. 

Another important, but often overlooked, piece of the puzzle for the automotive supply chain are power electronics. Currently development and manufacture of these components is led by a select few countries globally, so the Electric Vehicle Advanced Inverter Technology (EleVAIT) project has been chosen to boost manufacturing capability in the UK for these key components for JLR electric vehicles.  

The APC has, earlier this month, released new insight into the power electronic value chain which highlights key opportunities for the UK to grow in this critical area of supply for the electric vehicle sector.  

Projects in detail:

£6.3 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £12.6 million. This project will explore and develop technology for inverters – a key component in electric vehicles. As well as developing a best-in-class product, this work will support the growth of a UK supply chain in components for electric vehicles.

Project partners include: University of Bristol, Customer Interconnect Ltd, API Capacitors Ltd

FCVGEN2.0 – Ford Motor Company Ltd 
£8 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £16.3 million. This research project will design and develop a hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of the Ford Transit van, with a Ford Dagenham estate facility re-purposed for upfitting of the vehicle. By bringing the manufacturer, vehicle operator and supply chain businesses together, this project aims to establish a business case for the wider rollout of hydrogen Light Commercial Vehicles.

Project partners include: Ocado, BP, Cygnet Texkimp, Cambustion, Viritech 

NEXTGENZEBS – Wrightbus 
£6.4 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £12.7 million. This project will produce a new, market-leading platform for battery and fuel cell electric driven buses. Whilst demand is growing for zero-emission vehicles, there are currently few options available for heavy, multi-axle vehicles like large buses. 

Project partners include: Queens University Belfast, Grayson Thermal Systems, Hutchinson Engineering, Translink  

CAVENDISH – BorgWarner 
£4.9 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £9.8 million. This project aims to speed up the rollout of hydrogen-burning internal combustion engines, as an alternative to diesel. Project Cavendish will develop new fuel and air management systems, so that existing heavy duty diesel technologies can be repurposed to use hydrogen as fuel. 

Project partners include: Mahle, Cambustion, Hartridge 

ZETTA – Leyland Trucks Ltd 
£2.6 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £5.1 million. By better use of automation and advanced testing, Leyland Trucks aim to increase productivity and step up their production of battery electric trucks. A ‘digital twin’ of the Leyland production line will be set up, meaning any changes can be run in simulation before being rolled out physically. 

Project partners include: Expert Tooling, HSSMI 

£3.9 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £7.8 million. This project will develop a hydrogen fuel cell range extender for electric vehicles used for special purposes, such as ambulances, fire engines and street sweepers. The zero-emissions range extender will be based on existing, proven technology from the Toyota Mirai, and demonstrate how zero emissions vehicles can be used in a wide range of specialised and challenging settings. 

Project partners include: Altair Engineering, Emergency One, Technical Services Ltd, Oxon Fire & Rescue Services 

HEIDI – Bramble Energy Ltd 
£6.3 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £12.7 million. This project will demonstrate a fuel cell/battery hybrid powertrain on a double-decker bus. This novel product will be cheaper than the equivalents currently available for large vehicles like buses and uses innovative new electronics and energy recovery technologies. 

Project partners include: University of Bath, Equipmake, Aeristech 

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