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.
Image credit: MéridaLabs
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!
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
MéridaLabs Research Testbed
Learn more about the research and design of this unique city-scale research testbed