September 27, 2021, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham

Attending a conference boosted the confidence I have in my research

Alastair Stuart reflects on attending the IMechE’s online conference, ‘Emerging Technology for Heavy-Duty and Off-Highway Vehicle Development’, with help from the Researcher Academy’s Online Conference Fund.

Did you know that there is an estimated 84,000 refrigerated vehicles driving up and down UK roads supplying all our chilled and frozen food? Until a year ago I did not know this either but, due to my involvement in a project to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of refrigerated trucks through the use of hydrogen, I do now. As funding for the hydrogen truck project is not due to start until this September I was very grateful to the Researcher Academy OCF fund for an award enabling me to attend, in June this year, the IMechE’s online conference, with the catchy title, ‘Emerging Technology for Heavy-Duty and Off-Highway Vehicle Development’.

You may not be aware but there is some scepticism regarding the use of hydrogen as a solution to achieving zero-emissions. Negative comments towards hydrogen are particularly noticeable in the context of road transport with, CEO of TESLA, Elon Musk being one of the main detractors describing hydrogen fuel cells as “mind-bogglingly stupid”. With this in mind I was little wary when attending the conference as I was expecting most of the event to be geared around electric vehicles. To some extent this was true as there were a number of important projects in which battery based vehicles were being developed for public transport (buses), agriculture (tractors) and road haulage (trucks). However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that hydrogen fuel cells were beginning to a gain more traction in people’s thinking and, in particular, featuring as a credible long term solution. An example of this was given by Neil Miles, of Brighton & Hove Buses, who are currently operating a fleet of battery electric buses but have ambitions to roll out hydrogen fuel cell buses in the future.

“[Attending the conference] has boosted the confidence I have in both hydrogen technologies generally and, more importantly, in my own research activities here at UoN.”

However, the most enlightening part of the conference was a presentation from Amanda Lyne who is the Managing Director of ULEMCo, a company established to commercialise hydrogen technology. ULEMCo has been actively developing real-world solutions that will enable organisations that operate a fleet of trucks to radically reduce their carbon dioxide emissions to ultra-low levels. Most notably, she was able to provide examples of the potential impact that existing hydrogen based innovation can have in reducing carbon dioxide emissions if adopted today. I found Amanda’s insights into hydrogen and the role it will play in a net-zero future to be hugely encouraging and this has boosted the confidence I have in both hydrogen technologies generally and, more importantly, in my own research activities here at UoN.

You can find out more about the Online Conference Fund here.

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