BiofuelEnvironment & ClimateFossil FuelsHeavy Duty & Off-highwayHydrogenRenewable energySustainability

“Can combustion ever be clean?” Hydrogen ICE’s could be one answer.

By October 12, 2022 No Comments

On the 3rd April 2019 as part of the Future of Technology Series, the Advanced Propulsion Centre posed the following question – Can combustion ever be clean?

Titled ‘A messy solution to a messy problem’, the APC back in 2019 were exploring if the ICE still had a place in a future landscape which was already forging forward into electrification.

Citing oxide & nitrogen emissions as being two of the biggest challenges facing the road to net zero, as part of the collective exploration into the emissions problem Professor Robert Morgan – Professor of Thermal Propulsion Systems – School of Arch, Tech & Eng, University of Brighton – stated that:

“We can solve the toxic emissions with combustion engines! If you take control of the chemistry, you can take control of emissions” (1)

This bold statement was supported by Dr Morgan exploring how the heavy duty & off-highway sector not necessarily being suited to electrification, can benefit from biofuels, recaptured methane & hydrogen to move towards decarbonisation. (1)

Since 2019 Hydrogen has slowly & quietly become more of a contender in the race to decarbonise the transport sector & in particular heavy duty & off-highway. The UK Government Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution (November 2020) Point 4: Accelerating the Shift to Zero Emission Vehicles states that “H2 starts to be addressed as a potential sustainable fuel for the heavy duty, off-highway, aviation & marine sectors. “(2)

The Ten Point Plan goes on to say that the UK Government will “also consult on a date for phasing out the sale of new diesel heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) investing £20 million next year (2021) in freight trials to pioneer hydrogen and other zero emission lorries, to support industry to develop cost-effective, zero-emission HGVs in the UK.” (2)

Although until recently hydrogen has been seen as an additional option for the decarbonisation of the energy & transport sectors, over the past few years it has become an alternative & sustainable future fuel option for the decarbonisation of heavy duty, off-highway & marine, with some manufacturers & developers already making the shift to producing Hydrogen ICE’s.

With a ban on the sale of new petrol & diesel cars in Europe & the UK only a few years away, the passenger sector is very much looking at continuing to focus on the electrification of passenger vehicles & small capacity vans.

However, giants such as JCB & Cummins Inc. are already forging ahead with Hydrogen ICE technologies & the benefits speak for themselves. Not only do Hydrogen ICE’s aid the decarbonisation of the transport sector, but as the engines are based on the diesel original; the need to change the entire supply chain & logistics channels is not necessary, as the engines utilise most of the same base components as a diesel engine.

JCB reiterate this with their JCB backhoe loader.

Engineers at JCB Power Systems, the JCB engine factory in Derbyshire, UK, have developed the first hydrogen motor in the industry. (3)

Using and adapting established engine technology with readily available components, hydrogen is combusted and power is delivered in exactly the same way as a diesel engine. And now, the JCB prototype backhoe loader, fitted with this new hydrogen motor, can do everything its diesel-powered equivalent can do. (3)

What’s more, the technology is far less complicated than hydrogen fuel-cell technology. Nothing but steam is emitted from the tailpipe. Zero CO2 at point of use. (3)

On a practical level, a hydrogen motor uses similar technology to existing propulsion systems. It’s also robust, cost-effective and it could be integrated into all forms of powertrain. (3)

Most importantly, a familiar technology and lack of complexity make hydrogen an ideal zero-carbon solution for our customers, with demand being met by our existing, high quality manufacturing supply chain. (3)

Having been showcased for the very first time as part of the procession for the Platinum Jubilee in London, June 2022; the JCB backhoe loader is a perfect example of what Professor Morgan was saying three years ago, “If you take control of the chemistry, you can take control of emissions”

Cummins Inc. having been at the cutting edge of developing power solutions for over one hundred years, are another international engine developer & manufacturer who are on track to develop more Hydrogen ICE options.

“Our aim is to focus on the complete hydrogen value chain to drive sustainability and enable faster adoption.” Alison Trueblood, Cummins Executive Director – On-Highway Business Europe. (4)

As a result of acquisitions and investment, Cummins is focusing on three key areas for hydrogen: the production of green hydrogen, the management and transportation of hydrogen, and the application of hydrogen in engines and fuel cells. (4)

Cummins goals are the same as JCB & all heavy duty / off-highway engine developers, as they strive for a sustainable & zero emissions solution to the decarbonisation of this challenging sector.

The reuse of appropriate components drives economies of scale while also providing reliability and durability equal to diesel. (4)

Alongside the B6.7H hydrogen engine in the medium-duty truck, visitors to the Cummins stand at IAA, were able to see the larger Cummins’ X15H hydrogen engine aimed at heavy-duty trucks up to 44T GVW, with a top rating of 530 hp (395 kW) and an impressive peak torque of 2600 Nm. (4)

“A hydrogen combustion engine fits in today’s vehicles, works with today’s transmissions, and integrates seamlessly into the industry’s existing service networks and practices,” Alison Trueblood, Cummins Executive Director – On-Highway Business Europe. (4)

JCB & Cummins Inc. are only two engine manufacturers & developers who have realised that you do not need to reinvent the wheel to target emissions in certain areas of the transport sector, namely heavy duty, off-highway, construction & agriculture.

The fact that there are already Hydrogen ICE’s not only being developed but being driven, tested & in some cases in active service, goes a long way to showing that combustion can be clean & “If you take control of the chemistry, you can take control of emissions”

Written & cited by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2.