Composite hydrogen tanks for heavy duty transport

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Composites experts from the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) have developed a composite hydrogen storage tank for use in the heavy duty transport sector.

The AMRC worked with UK SMEs Crossfield Excalibur, a specialist in tooling design for rotationally-molded parts, and Elite Ground Support Services, which provides rotational, extrusion and compression mouldings for the automotive sector, on the 12-month project.

According to the AMRC, the Type 4 cylindrical hydrogen pressure vessel is made from filament wound carbon fiber over a thermoplastic liner. The tank can be used in the automotive sector and has the capacity to hold 40 l of hydrogen at a 350 bar pressure, with testing being performed in line with EU regulations. 

As part of the project, Crossfield Excalibur designed and developed a rotomoulding insert, capable of molding and using a high flow polyamide polymer which withstands significant pressures. 

“We are on a mission to help accelerate the UK hydrogen storage supply chain and enable rapid production of hydrogen pressure vessels through automated design, manufacture and validation to meet net zero targets and to help push forward the decarbonisation of road transportation nationwide,” said Zeeshan Qureshi, lead research engineer at the AMRC. “The project has also given us the chance to manufacture hydrogen pressure vessels using a filament winding machine, a process that has not been explored much within the UK.”

Stuart Dawson, chief engineer for hydrogen at the AMRC, said: “Heavy long-haul vehicles are one of the most challenging segments of the road transport sector to reduce emissions due to their long journey distances and heavy payload requirements.”

According to Stuart Dawson, chief engineer for hydrogen at the AMRC, hydrogen fuelled vehicles are the ideal solution for heavy duty, long range transport applications,

“Conventional metallic hydrogen storage tanks are heavy and would reduce the vehicle's payload,” said. “What is needed for transport applications is safe, affordable and lightweight hydrogen storage tanks. However, despite the high projected future demand for such tanks, there is virtually no UK manufacturing capability for composite pressure vessels.”

The AMRC says that the collaborative project has also created a UK supply chain for thermoplastic liners for the country’s automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).