Restorative Business Models for the Automotive Sector and Beyond – Developing a predictive maintenance industrial symbiosis
With the rapidly developing market for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles comes the opportunity to embed Circular Economy practices in the design, manufacture, use and end-of-life treatment of these vehicles, reducing demand for valuable finite resources. In a collaboration between Coventry University, Aston University, Microcab Industries and Oakdene Hollins, this project will apply an industrial symbiosis model to the critical supply chain of hydrogen fuel cells, seeking to develop a restorative business model that utilise new data-driven approaches to monitor the health and usage of fuel cells. The use of real-time knowledge of the health of critical components and systems will make such a business model, and others that involve the reuse of cells in other sectors, more efficient and sustainable.
The restorative models to be developed have the potential to save costs and generate revenue from waste streams. This combination of the principles of predictive maintenance and those of the circular economy will rely on early detection of signs of deterioration in fuel cells for the evaluation of their remaining useful life. This approach would allow for an optimisation of the maintenance efforts for extending their life and/or the reuse of cells in other sectors, thus giving the cells multiple lives and supporting industrial symbiosis. In doing so, the project will contribute to the implementation of principles such as "access not ownership" in a variety of sectors where fuel cells are a key part of the infrastructure such as the mainstream automotive, along with freight and public transport, as well as domains that seek to adopt circular economy principles such as industrial equipment.
The project will develop a proof of concept to better understand the interdependencies between data, cost, efficiency and circularity of materials. The business models of value chain stakeholders involved in supplying and/or end-of-life treatment of components and parts will also be informed.
Dr Helen Roby is a Research Fellow at Coventry University. An experienced behaviour change expert with expertise in sustainability and energy systems, her research focuses on reducing impact on the environment through better managing the world’s finite resources. Her previous projects have focused on the role of businesses, communities and individuals in tackling these problems and on the use of technological solutions to support these initiatives. Funded projects at Coventry University include the Innovate UK supported Community Energy Platform for Energy (CAPE) and the EU EIT KIC Raw Materials project RemanPath focusing on supporting SMEs to get involved in remanufacturing.
Helen is also an impact expert, leading this area for research within the Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University. While at the Open University, Helen led the Inclusive Supply Chain work package of the institution’s strategic research area in International Development and Inclusive Innovation. She has been involved in two EPSRC sandpits, one as part of the ESPRC Transport Grand Challenge, leading to the top-rated multi-institutional Disruption Project; the other linked to the EPSRC Creativity Greenhouse, leading to the Digital Brain Switch Project, focusing on work-life balance in a digitally dependent world.