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Hytunnel Project to Investigate the Use of Hydrogen Vehicles in Road Tunnels


Hydrogen vehicles may emerge as a leading contender to replace today’s internal combustion engine powered vehicles. A Phenomena Identification and Ranking Table exercise conducted as part of the European Network of Excellence on Hydrogen Safety (HySafe) identified the use of hydrogen vehicles in road tunnels as a topic of important concern. An internal project called HyTunnel was duly established within HySafe to review, identify and analyse the issues involved and to contribute to the wider activity to establish the true nature of the hazards posed by hydrogen vehicles in the confined space of a tunnel and their relative severity compared to those posed by vehicles powered by conventional fuels including compressed natural gas (CNG). In addition to reviewing current hydrogen vehicle designs, tunnel design practice and previous research, a programme of experiments and CFD modelling activities was performed for selected scenarios to examine the dispersion and explosion hazards potentially posed by hydrogen vehicles. Releases from compressed gaseous hydrogen (CGH2) and liquid hydrogen (LH2) powered vehicles have been studied under various tunnel geometries and ventilation regimes. The findings drawn from the limited work done so far indicate that under normal circumstances, hydrogen powered vehicles do not pose a significantly higher risk than those powered by petrol, diesel or CNG, but this needs to be confirmed by further research. In particular, obstructions at tunnel ceiling level have been identified as a potential hazard in respect to fast deflagration or even detonation in some circumstances, which warrants further investigation. The shape of the tunnel, tunnel ventilation and vehicle pressure relief device (PRD) operation are potentially important parameters in determining explosion risks and the appropriate mitigation measures.

Related subjects: Safety

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