Recently, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Hydrogen Sensor Laboratory was used in a partnership with KPA Services, LLC (KPA), at the request of Toyota Motors to validate hydrogen sensors for incorporation into their system to adapt vehicle repair facilities for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). The Hydrogen Sensor Laboratory was established by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) in 2008.
While FCEVs were designed with significant safety features to prevent unintended hydrogen releases under normal consumer operation, the likelihood of a release can increase during certain operations, such as maintenance on the fuel system or powertrain. The hazards associated with hydrogen in these types of operations are minimized through appropriate facility designs, including the use of sensors, to alert personnel to the presence of hydrogen in the facility.
KPA Services developed a modular approach to adapt existing repair facilities to accommodate FCEVs by upgrading individual service bays to be compatible with overall safety requirements for FCEV maintenance activity. Hydrogen sensors were one key element to this design.
In the first phase of the collaboration, NREL and KPA identified sensor requirements based in part by the requirements within the International Fire Code (IFC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 2) standards. Several sensors were then identified for extended field deployment and monitoring for long-term stability. Following testing and validation at NREL, one sensor was selected by KPA Services for use in their repair facility design, was readily accepted by local authorities having jurisdiction, and has been deployed in at least 9 Toyota repair facilities to date.
The NREL-KPA collaboration provided local authorities with critical sensor performance data, which enabled a faster permitting process to accommodate hydrogen FCEVs in repair facilities. The collaboration significantly facilitated the adaptation of repair facilities for FCEVs by assuring a safe repair environment. Toyota and KPA plan additional adaptation of dealership repair facilities, notably in the Northeast corridor between Boston and New York City.