As day 1 of the Future Propulsion Conference 2023 ended, the energy from the delegates, keynote speakers, session speakers and the many companies showcasing their latest technologies had generated a collective hive of positive interactions, connections and conversations.

As day 2 of the conference commenced, the Dolphin N2 ThermoPower Recuperated Split Cycle Engine demonstrator continued to dominate the Britannia Suite and reminded delegates and attendees that heavy-duty is still an important topic to discuss given the decarbonisation challenges this sector faces.

The presence of the Dolphin N2 engine was particularly relevant at the Future Propulsion Conference this year as recent news stories emanating from the European automotive industry and European Commission, have certainly brought the ICE back into focus, with some areas seeking a push to reverse the ICE ban in favour of running clean ICE’s on sustainable eFuels.

Thursday’s seminar programme was started with a Keynote from Michael Hurwitz from PA Consulting entitled ‘Place your Bets: Technologies and skills for the future of propulsion’

Michael posed some interesting questions during his keynote, one of which was to ask the gathered delegates to think 5 years ahead and ask ourselves what should we be doing now that we will need to do in 5 years’ time?

Michael was not talking about a 5 year plan, moreover his challenge was to challenge delegates to consider which areas of the decarbonisation journey we should consider investing in to get to the position we want to be in 5 years?

Michael posed the thought that if the collective delegates were to only think about the transport sector, whatever it is was they were planning would fail.

Strong words, but he had a point and his point was that in his view the future is a triangle and it looks like this:



Energy System     Physical environment

Michael made a very valid point about the fact that all to often in amongst all of the engineering and data that the customer – the end user of whatever technology is being created – is often forgotten.

Too often companies, developers, policy makers and engineers become so wrapped up in the data that they can sometimes forget why they are doing it all and fundamentally, whatever technology is being developed must be able to operate successfully in the space it is needed in.

Coming back to the topic of the keynote ‘Place your bets’ Michael went on to tell the delegates which areas they should be looking at investing in going forward and in amongst energy and EV’s he also said “I don’t want to say it but there will be ICE’s around for quite some time” and therefore one area to consider was investment in clean ICE technology.

On the subject of EV’s and how they can be adopted into society, Michael made the point again about the customer, the end user and used the example of catching a bus.

Electric and Hydrogen buses are already a reality in some larger UK cities. However, as Michael noted, there are on average 9000 buses running in London daily and of those, at least 500 per day are put on diversions.

If (just supposing) all of the buses were electric, their routes would have to be worked out based on their charge capacity. However, as Michael said, if any of those electric buses were put on an unexpected diversion; their charge may not be able to accommodate the additional time and therefore if they ran out of charge midway through a route, it would be the customer – the end user – who would be directly affected by the bus not arriving when it should, if at all.

Therefore, Michael made the point that for any technology to work effectively and be accepted by the people it is meant to support – the end user – there must be:

  • Consistency in performance
  • The company who owned the technology must understand the long-term degradation of the produce


  • The company investing in any new technology, must know what is coming in 5-7 years’ time to ensure they have the capacity and the investment required to upscale and upgrade

Michael’s closing remarks hailed back to the triangle at the opening of his keynote. He explained that to make any new technology successful and to drive decarbonisation forwards that you need people who can think in a triangle, people who can all work together for the greater good, rather than the oftentimes disconnect found in business.

Michael recognised that the UK has got some genuine strengths but that where we as a nation fall down, is in our democratic approach to funding and that spreading funding too thin can mean that major projects which could be active now, are not receiving the funding necessary to bring their products and technologies to market sooner.

As delegates moved on to their respective chosen seminars, Nick Owen – Technical Director or Dolphin N2 opened Session 8 – Combustion (incl Hydrogen) with his seminar entitled “Clean, efficient off-highway power with a Split Cycle Hydrogen Engine”

The second presentation of Session 8 was from Dr Penny Atkins – Principal Research Fellow from the University of Brighton. Dr Atkins seminar focussed on “Decarbonisation in the marine sector using Hydrogen, a case study”

The Future Propulsion Conference offers an opportunity for academics, engineers and businesses to connect, collaborate and create valuable insights into what the industry as a whole is achieving in the race to decarbonise the transport sector.

FPC gives a much-needed platform to the heavy-duty and off-highway sector and highlights the ongoing challenges this particular sector faces, but equally explores the many options opening up to it.

One of the important messages to take away from this years conference is that there is a considerable shift from the ‘one size fits all’ mentality of electrification for everything and instead what has been said many times in the seminars and conversations in the networking session; is that a varied approach is required to reach carbon neutrality and reduce transport emissions now and in the future.

Written by Katy-Jane Mason for and on behalf of Dolphin N2