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Zero emission road freight hydrogen fuel cell truck demonstration

Automotive & Transport
Project Size:
Share of up to £140million

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with the Department for Transport to invest up to £140 million in innovation projects. As part of the Zero Emission Road Freight (ZERFT) Demonstration programme, this competition will focus on the largest heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). The programme will support government’s commitment to end sales of all new, non-zero emission HGVs by 2040 and enable continued cross border freight.

The Zero Emission Road Freight programme competition is funding demonstrations across 3 strands:

The aim of this strand of the competition is to kick-start the deployment of long haul zero emission HGVs, with a multi-year demonstration of 40-44t hydrogen fuel cell trucks. Including the development of the required business models for scalable deployment and a network of dedicated infrastructure.

Your proposal must define the zero emission road freight demonstration which you will conduct. The demonstration will collect data to inform future policy decisions and infrastructure choices.


Your project must:

  • start on 1 March 2023
  • claim the grant funding by 31 March 2025
  • complete your project and 5 year demonstration of all vehicles funded by the programme no later than 31 March 2030
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Your project must have a total grant funding request between £20million and £90million

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size or a research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • collaborate with other UK registered organisations

If the lead organisation is an RTO it must collaborate with 2 or more businesses.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

Non-UK businesses can apply to this competition in reference to activities they are considering undertaking in the UK. The business must be registered in the UK before any funding can be awarded.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

To be eligible as a collaboration the lead and at least one other organisation must claim grant funding.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

The aim of this competition, as part of the Zero Emission Road Freight Demonstration programme, is to focus on the largest heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

We expect to fund up to 5 demonstrations covering all technologies that are in scope, across the three strands of this competition. We are looking for projects that include multiple vehicle and infrastructure suppliers and that demonstrate a wide range of duty cycles with multiple freight operators.

The programme will fund costs associated with project delivery, vehicle access and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure during the period from when the project starts, up until 31 March 2025. All vehicles and infrastructure funded must be demonstrated for 5 years.

Innovate UK encourages and is particularly interested in proposals with micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) collaborative involvement.

This strand will fund multi-year on-road demonstrations of hydrogen fuel cell heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) as part of your standard freight operations.

Your project's size must enable a demonstration of at least 25 trucks split between at least 2 operators and supported by at least 2 hydrogen refuelling locations. Your application must meet this scale and have a grant funding request of between £20million and £90million.

Your proposal must:

  • define the demonstration that you plan to conduct, including all associated costs and the range of operational use cases that you will demonstrate
  • focus on long-haul articulated heavy goods vehicles (40-44t gross vehicle weight) and developing a sustainable and scalable approach to zero emission road freight
  • present a well-rounded and industrially driven consortium capable of rapid deployment
  • evidence that you can acquire the vehicles and supply the infrastructure needed to carry out a successful demonstration in the required timeframe
  • define a demonstration which has a viable route to expanding nationally and internationally, as part of your long term strategy to decarbonise this sector

Demonstration-specific requirements

You must:

  • conduct an ambitious demonstration with focus on the most difficult to decarbonise HGV applications, including long-haul and long-duration high speed operations
  • focus on high utilisation of vehicles and infrastructure, and potential multi-shift operations, to maximise value for money, explore commercial viability and inform an optimal Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
  • operate zero emission HGVs in various types of locations, whilst performing a range of duty cycles to reflect the variety in HGV operations
  • concentrate some vehicles around your key locations or infrastructure to explore factors associated with future high saturation deployments, fully exploring the boundaries and capabilities of the technology and infrastructure
  • ensure all vehicles funded in your project are in operation by 31st March 2025, vehicles can be deployed earlier or in stages if desired
  • ensure adequate training is provided for all those using the vehicles or infrastructure
  • ensure there are appropriate repair and maintenance provisions for your vehicles and infrastructure
  • share your project’s learning before, during and after your demonstration, both independently and by supporting activities organised by the funders or their agents
  • collaborate fully with organisations responsible for regulation, safety and incident response to conduct a safe demonstration
  • maximise UK value in terms of supply chain and deployment

International freight operations are acceptable, but we will not fund infrastructure or operations originating outside the UK.

Successful projects and operators demonstrating vehicles will be required to engage with contractors from Innovate UK and Department for Transport (DfT). They are independently evaluating the zero emission road freight demonstrations, see background and supporting information.

Vehicle-specific requirements

You must:

  • focus on use of state of the art vehicles that can be scaled, such as those produced by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
  • use articulated HGVs, specifically 6x2 or 4x2 axle tractors and semi-trailers with 40-44t gross vehicle weight (GVW)
  • only use hydrogen fuel cell HGVs
  • ensure any ancillary equipment is zero emission in use, including cabin heaters and trailer refrigeration units
  • ensure vehicles are capable of long haul operations
  • include usage of systems which provide vehicle traction power to ancillary equipment, for example power take-off (PTO)
  • ensure demonstrated vehicles meet all safety, regulatory and legal requirements

Infrastructure-specific requirements

You must:

  • ensure all proposed infrastructure funded through the programme is accessible to other operators outside the consortia by appointment
  • ensure infrastructure is located to enable a variety of operations including on-route refuelling
  • utilise a proportion of state of the art infrastructure, capable of refuelling multiple vehicles rapidly and back-to-back
  • ensure use of hydrogen that meets the UK’s draft low carbon hydrogen standard, such as that produced using renewable electricity
  • meet all safety, regulatory and legal requirements
  • align with current and emerging international standards
  • describe any decommissioning that is required at the conclusion of the demonstration (infrastructure which can viably be repurposed does not require decommissioning)

Projects can use existing or planned infrastructure where it is compatible with their demonstration and appropriate for long haul HGVs.

We encourage projects to demonstrate links to other initiatives, such as the OFGEM Strategic Innovation Fund and the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund. We may prioritise hydrogen projects that have a focus on the Tees valley area.

You can propose a demonstration using a proportion of vehicles that are not type approved or are produced by an organisation with an annual production intent of less than 500 vehicles. The following limits are set:

  • retrofitted diesel (or internal combustion engine) vehicles at 10% of the vehicles demonstrated
  • vehicles produced using a new ‘glider’ chassis at 20% of the vehicles demonstrated, or up to 30% if there are no retrofit vehicles demonstrated

You must provide a clear justification that this approach allows you to demonstrate best in class technology, maximise UK content, and that production can be scaled to enable rapid deployment of the core technology.

You can downplate a maximum of 30% of your 40-44t GVW demonstration vehicles or operate them exclusively for lighter loads. This must be part of a well justified plan to demonstrate technical and operational capability of the core zero emission HGV technology, particularly where these are the first vehicles to be demonstrated. These vehicles must be used as a pathfinder towards heavier vehicles.

Your demonstration can use rigid HGVs at a maximum of 5% of your deployment. It must be part of a well justified approach to explore a mainstream use case or duty cycle.

You can propose a demonstration using limited quantities of hydrogen that does not meet the UK’s draft low carbon hydrogen standard up to 31 March 2025. This is only where essential to supply sufficient quantity of hydrogen to deploy vehicles.

Hydrogen refuelling can be supported through the Department for Transport’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) scheme, or other appropriate mechanisms.

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