Investigating the benefits of using palletised eHGV batteries for transport fleet electrification/decarbonisation


Supervisor: Dr Erica Ballantyne and Professor David Stone.

Long haul road freight transport and the HGV market in the UK is currently dominated by diesel powered vehicles. As the cost of fossil fuels continue to increase, together with the inherent need to move towards zero emission vehicle fleets, HGV fleet operators and being increasingly pushed towards operating electric HGVs. However, the shorter range and longer refuelling times for eHGVs when compared to their more conventional diesel counterparts makes this shift to lower carbon goods transport more problematic than is the case with private passenger vehicles.

This project addresses a currently under-investigated aspect of the government push to net zero, and the issues surrounding decarbonisation of commercial fleet vehicles. Significant work is targeted at the technology and societal impact of the electrification of passenger vehicles, but the longer ranges and significantly higher utilisation of fleet HGVs for example make the problems of decarbonisation an order of magnitude more difficult.

Since commercial transport hubs are geared up to handle palletised goods, and often are situated on the outskirts of larger cities or close to motorways as distribution hubs. This project will examine the technical and commercial/logistical drivers behind using palletised batteries for supporting eHGV traction and range extending.

These palletised battery packs will act as mobile energy storage, which will be easy to handle within the existing logistics infrastructure; they can be re-charged off vehicle at existing hubs/depots, where the power demands of the charging can be controlled independently to the demands on the vehicles for transportation.

The aim of the project is to study and understand the impact of HGV operation for example, on the energy use and decarbonisation of the operational fleet as a whole. To this end, the student will examine the drivers and barriers of range extending, palletised, mobile energy storage systems for use in the commercial road transport sector.

The project will encompass the fleet operation logistics, and from that, the stored energy requirements for the technology; alongside the technical issues surrounding the charging/grid support, and interfacing of the proposed palletised system to existing platforms. This will then be closely linked to the practical applications of the industrial collaborator.

The study will also encompass the technology required to allow the operational vehicle interfacing, together with the requirements for the battery management system on the palletised storage. One further advantage of this as a possible system to be explored is the ease with which the palletised storage could be utilised as static energy storage once the batteries/cells reach 'end-of-life' in the transport application, facilitating an easier transition to second life battery use.

Once the project establishes the baselines for the energy storage requirements based on the fleet operational constraints, these can form the base of a requirements specification for further palletised technology, for example a fuel cell/H2 based system, for range extension, as appropriate.

Significant expertise exists within the sponsoring company with respect to the handling and loading/unloading of palletised goods, with operators and vehicle drivers being familiar with the technologies involved. The use of a familiar infrastructure as the foundation for a study into a removable energy storage/range extender technology, covering the impact of the fleet operational requirements and the size/space/storage needs of the palletised energy systems, will provide a case study to provide real-world focus to the work.

The impact of the use of freight hubs as recharging facilities on the existing grid infrastructure will also be investigated, along with the use of on-site, and inherently out of town/on motorway network, alternative generation technology. Thus, the industrial partner will play an important role by enabling the research to be constrained by some of the practical issues which surround day to day HGV logistics operations, for example client operational requirements and vehicle routing.

This proposed PhD project is truly multi-disciplinary, primarily supervised by Dr Ballantyne from the Management School, whose expertise and contacts lie in the field of transport logistics, and Professor Stone from the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering (EEE), whose background is energy storage and conversion. The inclusion of the external partner who will support the real-world application and impact of the research.

The project will be part of the EPSRC-supported Centre for Doctoral Training in Resilient Decarbonised Fuel Energy Systems. The student who undertakes it will be one of a cohort of over 50 students in a broad range of disciplines across the Universities of Sheffield, Nottingham and Cardiff.

Funding notes

Funding awarded via the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Resilient Decarbonised Fuel Energy Systems and XPO Logistics.

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