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Exploring the Future of Automotive Innovation: A Conversation with Bath Hydrogen

Recently, we sat down and spoke to Bath Hydrogen team leaders Samuel Ray and Oliver Jones to discuss their pioneering efforts in revolutionising automotive technology, after successfully making an engine run on hydrogen. Samuel, the outgoing team lead, initiated his journey with the project last February, marking the transition from technical feasibility studies to practical implementation. Oliver, currently serving as the third-year team leader, is focused on preparing the car for operation, including designing the fuel system and ensuring compliance with safety standards. Join us as we delve into their collaborative efforts and ambitious goals for the project’s future.

Q: Could you give a brief introduction of yourselves and the team?

A: We are the team leaders of Bath Hydrogen. I’m Samuel Ray, the outgoing team lead, and I’ve been with the project since its practical work began last February. Our journey began with a focus on technical feasibility, and over time, we’ve expanded the team’s efforts to include single cylinder engine testing and practical work on the car, fuel system, and safety specifications. Joining me is Oliver Jones, the current third-year team leader, who has played a vital role in advancing the project forward with his expertise in internal combustion engine design.

Q: What is the history of the project?

A: The project evolved from Team Bath Racing, the University Formula Student team, to align with the university’s sustainability goals. The first year was a technical feasibility study. Practical work began in February 2022, and this is the third year of the project.

Q: How many members are on the team?

A: Currently, there are nine members—three final years and six on the GBDP (Group Business Design Project).

Q: What research have you been focusing on?

A: The main focus has been creating a blueprint for running an engine on hydrogen. We started with a single-cylinder engine test rig. The base engine we used was a Vanguard 400 EFI, commonly found in small commercial machinery. We converted it to run on hydrogen by modifying the fuel system, ignition timing, and engine control system. Overcoming health and safety challenges was a significant part of this process. The next step is direct injection running, aligning with our goals for the car.

Q: What were the main challenges and how many test runs did it take to succeed?

A: We took a step-by-step approach, integrating our own ECU and running the engine on petrol before switching to hydrogen. Health and safety were the main challenges. Initially, we conducted numerous tests to ensure the fuel system could handle hydrogen fuel. 

Q: What health and safety challenges did you face?

A: Hydrogen leaks easily and burns with an invisible flame. We implemented exclusion zones to separate the fuel source and the engine from the operator. Despite initial concerns, we haven’t had any leaks. The fuel system has been resilient.

Q: What are the next steps and challenges from this point?

A: The biggest challenge will be health and safety. Moving from a test rig to a car requires re-evaluating safety measures. We aim to show that hydrogen is a viable and safe option. Our main goal is to change public perception and demonstrate the potential of hydrogen engines for carbon neutral transport

Q: What is the current land speed record with a hydrogen-powered vehicle?

A: BMW hit 187.62 miles per hour in 2004. However, our car runs in a different category, the 2-litre class, while BMW used a 6-litre engine.

Q: How far are you from making an attempt?

A: The car might run on hydrogen next year, but more likely the year after. We’ll start with standing start records due to the lack of long runways in the UK. To beat BMW’s record, we’d need more funding and probably go abroad.

Q: What are the next steps and challenges from this point?

A: The biggest challenge will be health and safety, moving from a test rig to a car requires re-evaluating safety measures. We aim to show that hydrogen is a viable and safe option. Our main goal is to change public perception and demonstrate the potential of hydrogen engines.

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