Permali developing new breakthrough composite structures for Hydrogen Powered Buses
Permali has won UK Government funding to develop a lightweight composite solution that will allow existing diesel-powered buses to be retrofitted with zero-emission hydrogen powertrains. The objective is to rapidly develop an affordable green technology alternative that can accelerate the ability for the UK to meet its net zero emissions target.
The funding has been awarded by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) through the Niche Vehicle Network (NVN). The Permali R & D team, located at the company’s main site in Gloucester, will be working on this development project in collaboration with leading hydrogen and fuel cell specialist company Arcola Energy and the UK National Composites Centre (NCC). The partnership project is initially aimed at buses, but the new technology concept should be transferable to a wider range of vehicles, such as heavy-duty goods vehicles, trains and even aircraft.
Collaborative Project Objectives
Permali will work in close collaboration with the NCC to design and manufacture the proof of concept system. Arcola Energy will integrate and test the system with the hydrogen cylinders to achieve regulatory compliance and fit the new system to a double decker bus. The NCC approached Permali knowing their extensive experience in handling complex projects and proven track record in the F1 automotive, aerospace, defence, rail and energy sectors as a highly responsive provider of advanced materials solutions.
The project focus for Permali will be on the development and production of a low-cost, lightweight composite system which will structurally support the hydrogen fuel cylinders. The target for the Permali development team is to halve the weight of the current metallic hydrogen fuel tank structure and to increase energy storage by 25%, while still providing the required structural performance to meet the vehicle road safety standards.
Permali’s Sales & Marketing Director, Fraser Rankin, commented: “This is a fantastic win for Permali demonstrating the ability to create an innovative solution within a short time frame and to the complexity of the project requirements. Our dedicated and loyal team have been instrumental in the funding win and I’m excited to see Permali’s influence on a breakthrough project which contributes towards the UK’s carbon neutral goal.”
Benefits of Hydrogen Power
Hydrogen fuel provides a highly efficient zero-emission alternative to diesel. It is especially suited for buses which operate on long-distance, high-capacity routes. By retrofitting existing diesel engine buses with hydrogen powertrains, bus operators will be able to cost effectively run zero emission fleets, with a combination of retrofitted hydrogen powered buses for longer routes alongside electric battery powered buses for shorter routes.
An innovative inflatable clear plastic vehicle isolation screening system to provide personal protection from COVID-19 transfer has been rapidly developed and launched by the Dutch manufacturer, Buitink Technology. The new Buitink Inflatable Car Screen (BICS ®) product range, available in sizes to fit most passenger cars and vans, has a worldwide patent pending. Buitink Technology’s clever design makes it very quick and easy to install and remove BICS protection barriers, with no requirement for drilling or special tools. This novel, patented vehicle isolation system enables commercial, public sector and private vehicle drivers and passengers to travel more safely during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, reducing the risk of infection.
The BICS product design can be adapted for virtually any passenger car, private taxi cab, chauffeur car, MPV, transporter or commercial van. There is a BICS design to separate front and rear occupants and another to provide a partition between the driver and a front passenger. Front and rear vehicle isolation protection can be easily installed in a matter of minutes using a bicycle pump or mini compressor and the supplied straps; when not required, the BICS isolation screens can be quickly deflated, removed from a vehicle, cleaned and flat packed away until needed again.
Flexible plastic film technology
All of Buitink Technology’s BICS product designs are manufactured from a thin (~0.2mm) but durable, Tuftane®thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) flexible plastic film, produced by UK manufacturer, Permali. For some years, Permali has been supplying Tuftane TPU products to Buitink Technology for a variety of other barrier and inflatable membrane product development applications.
High clarity Tuftane TFL-2Z TPU film is the grade specified for the BICS main screen panel and the integrated inflatable securing frame; when filled with air, the fully inflated clear outer ring tightly holds the isolation screen in position inside the vehicle. Depending on the type of BICS design, various built-in eyelets and fixing straps with quick release end hooks are included in the supplied system to hold the inflated screen in place, with no need to drill additional fixture points.
Tuftane elastomeric films are proven barrier materials, used in a wide variety of medical equipment and healthcare products, including personal protection equipment (PPE) such as surgical gloves, gowns, aprons, clear isolation drapes and hoods. All Tuftane TPU grades are formulated and blown film extruded by Permali, supplied to manufacturers on a roll, slit to width and rewound to order to optimise material utilisation and minimise scrap.
For BICS products, Tuftane TFL-2Z film grade was recommended by Permali as it provides the best combination of physical and mechanical properties for the application. Tuftane TFL- 2Z is a highly conformable, flexible and 100% transparent film, with high puncture and tear resistance, even as thin as 200 microns (0.2mm). Critically, for the BICS product design, Tuftane TPU films can be welded to provide the strong, impermeable, leak free, inflatable outer ring frame section of the protection screen.
Permali’s Sales and Marketing Director, Fraser Rankin commented: “From the initial contact with Buitink Technology about this application, being COVID-19 PPE related, we gave this project a high priority. Within 10 working days the Permali team identified the best Tuftane grade and thickness for the application, provided sample materials and shipped the first Tuftane TFL-2Z order of 100m by 1.5 wide rolls to The Netherlands.”
Practical vehicle isolation protection
The BICS vehicle isolation system is simple, versatile and practical, particularly for safe commercial use, such as in a taxi. Being a totally transparent system, driver visibility is unrestricted and the Tuftane film is thin enough to enable a passenger to hear and talk to the driver and even pay as usual through the screen by mobile phone or contactless card. The Tuftane plastic film has good chemical resistance to commonly used antibacterial cleaning products and disinfectants, with no loss of clarity over repeated cleaning.
The BICS system is also proving ideal for other commercial businesses wanting to restart which need to provide personal protection from COVID-19 infection, such as car dealers wanting to offer safe vehicle viewing and test driving or for learner drivers to be able to safely go out with an instructor and driving test examiner.
Standard BICS car model size range
Biutink Technology has created a range of standard screen sizes for specific models and makes of cars, which are supplied flat-packed in a box, ready to install. Biutink Technology’s Managing Director, Rienk de Vries explains: “We spent a lot of time before the launch developing a wide range of BICS product templates in sizes to fit specific vehicle makes and models, including all the popular cars, MPVs and vans used as private taxis. You simply tell us your car model details or licence plate and we supply the right BICS size you need. We also custom make BICS products if we don’t have an existing size which will fit, or if it is for a specialty vehicle.”
The BICS system is not just for passenger cars and taxis. The patented design concept can be adapted to provide isolation screening for different types and models of public transport and passenger carrying vehicles, including buses, coaches and police vehicles.
Buitink Technology is located in Duiven, near Arnhem in The Netherlands. The company has over 70 years of expertise in developing, manufacturing and installing architectural, transportation, environmental and industrial product solutions using flexible plastics such as films, inflatable membranes and technical textiles. For more details about BICS click here.
Permali is a world class manufacturing company with over 80 years of expertise in developing advanced material solutions for leading companies in the defence, aerospace, rail, automotive, medical, specialty films and textiles markets. To find out more about Tuftane films click here.
[BICS ®: Buitink Inflatable Car Screen – worldwide patent pending – is a registered trademark of Buitink Technology, Duiven, Netherlands]
Permali’s operations team has been responding quickly to meet urgent demand from our customers in the medical sector supplying the NHS with important front line equipment, while ensuring continuity of supply on other important government contracts including the Ministry of Defence. This required an innovative and dynamic response which thanks to Permali’s experience of meeting urgent operational requirements combined with advanced in-house design, development and manufacturing capabilities has allowed for quick turnaround to meet new supply demand. We have supplied our Tuftane® TPU materials for hospital bed mattress systems which are crucial in supporting the fight against Covid cases in hospitals across the nation.
Permali’s Tuftane® protective membranes are being used in solutions for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the UK and Europe, and we are continuing to meet the challenge and join the national effort of re-building the UK’s supply chain to urgently manufacture and supply high quality PPE solutions to our workers on the front line battling the current pandemic.
Permali’s track record of designing products and materials that perform and protect in accordance with the most demanding technical regulations across Medical, Defence, Automotive, Rail and Aerospace industries is world class. As always, we have ensured strict compliance with government guidelines while we meet the challenge posed by Covid-19. We would like to offer a big thank you to our workforce for their continued commitment and dedication and an even bigger thank you to the NHS for continuing to support the nation.
Permali plays host to Richard Graham MP who visited the head office and engineering facility located in Gloucester, South West England. With key links to the NHS and MOD, Permali has obtained a key worker status and continued business as usual despite the pressures of the Covid-19 situation. Richard was taken on a tour of the site to observe the cutting-edge manufacturing capabilities and learn more about Permali’s involvement in Defence, Medical, Aerospace, Rail and Automotive markets.
The tour was led by Managing Director, Karl Wharton, and Director of Sales & Marketing, Fraser Rankin, which provided Richard with insight on key composites and materials used in tanks, helicopters, ships and aeroplanes through to PPE, recycled plastic design panelling and Formula 1. Richard also took interest in Permali’s newly installed body temperature scanner, capable of monitoring employees’ temperatures as they enter the building, detecting and flagging possible signs of Covid-19 symptoms. After going through the wider business plans, Richard commented it was refreshing to see that despite the Covid-19 challenges, Permali is keen to invest in the future including an apprenticeship scheme and recruitment drive. Karl added “We have continued to operate during these challenging times, supported the NHS and MOD and continue to explore new markets to assist with the growth of the company. It has been a huge team effort and we have operated collaboratively and proactively to meet demanding market needs. I would like to thank Richard for his time visiting us, it was extremely positive and just the kind of news that people want to hear.”