Jose Jimenez with Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car

Perhaps the only noticeable difference between driving a hydrogen car and a gasoline car, besides the light electric hum the hydrogen car’s engine makes, is the H20 button beside the steering wheel. When you press this button, Jose Jimenez from UBC Parking says, the vehicle releases the only emissions it produces: a small puddle of water.

Recently, UBC Parking purchased two Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to add to their fleet, which currently consists of one electric car, two gasoline cars, and even an electric tricycle.

Brian Jones, Director of UBC Parking, says that the goal is to create a “100% zero emissions fleet as soon as possible…to be a pilot for other UBC groups and to help enable and inspire the transition of all UBC vehicles to zero emissions.”

But these hydrogen vehicles are only part of the story. Brian, Jose, and the UBC Parking team are collaborating on a much larger project at UBC – a $23 million renewable energy hub that is currently taking shape at UBC’s Thunderbird Parkade.

Image credit: Dialog

UBC Renewable Energy Hub

Led by researchers in the UBC Faculty of Applied Science, with funding from the federal and provincial governments, the UBC Renewable Energy Hub will transform the area around Thunderbird Parkade into a smart energy district through the addition and construction of:

  • intelligent charging infrastructure for electric vehicles;
  • a solar array on top of Thunderbird Parkade;
  • and BC’s first hydrogen production and refuelling station for both light and heavy-duty vehicles.

It’s great to see this idea come to life and demonstrate that parkades can be more than just a place to park a car, that we can be significant partners in not only curbing emissions from commuting sources but also use them to build neighbourhood power-generating grids.

Brian Jones

Director, UBC Parking

Image credit: MéridaLabs

Project phases

The renewable energy hub is broken out into the following three project phases:

  • EV charging and energy storage
  • Hydrogen hub
  • Solar parkade

Phase 0: EV charging and energy storage

Phase 0 is now complete with the installation of electric vehicle (EV) fast charging stations and a battery energy storage system at Thunderbird Parkade.

EV Fast Charging stations at Thunderbird Parkade

Renewable energy storage at Thunderbird Parkade

The highlight for me is the opportunity to work with so many talented students. I always tell the story of this bright young fellow named Elvis; we had a meeting one day and we were talking about the idea of having a management system for the EV chargers. He called me the next day to tell me that he had programmed a platform!

Jose Jimenez

Operations Facilities Manager, UBC Parking

Phase 1: hydrogen hub

Phase 1 is currently underway with the construction of the hydrogen hub immediately west of Thunderbird Parkade. The hydrogen hub includes an electrolyzer for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis, a hydrogen compressor and storage tank, and a hydrogen fuelling station.

Construction of hydrogen hub and fueling station on Thunderbird Blvd.

Architectural rendering of hydrogen hub and fueling station.

Phase 2: solar parkade

Phase 2 will bring the whole project together with a solar panel canopy built on top of Thunderbird Parkade, which will produce enough electricity to offset the total power demand for the EV charging stations and hydrogen hub and feed excess electricity into the grid.

Construction of Phase 2 will take place over summer 2022, and the system is expected to be operational in the fall.

Image credit: MéridaLabs

My hope is that this project will show that green hydrogen generation is possible, that it is scalable, and that it will reinforce UBC’s standing as a world leader in this critical sector. – Brian Jones, Director, UBC Parking

Learn more about this project

UBC Renewable Energy Hub

Learn more at UBC Applied Science Research

MéridaLabs Research Testbed

Learn more about the research and design of this unique city-scale research testbed

UBC Hydrogen Fuelling Station

Watch the Campus + Community Planning presentation

UBC breaks ground on $23 million renewable energy hub

Read the UBC News story

UBC Renewable Energy Hub fuels B.C.’s low-carbon future

Read the Government of BC’s news release

UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Read the Victoria News story

Sustainability and climate action at UBC

Learn more about campus sustainability in Vancouver and the Okanagan, including transportation, green buildings, energy management, and more.

Plus, don’t miss the latest updates on UBC’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2030: Vancouver | Okanagan.