Air QualityBiofuelFossil FuelsHeavy Duty & Off-highwayHydrogen

Heavy-duty & off-highway technology is playing a key role in developing zero emissions solutions.

By December 7, 2022 No Comments

A recent LinkedIn post from JCB citing an extract from their TORQUE Magazine Issue 1, highlighted the need for flexibility & education in the race to decarbonise & how the off-highway sector can support this.

“No individual manufacturer, organisation or industry can solve this carbon problem we face single-handedly but the off-highway sector as a whole can unquestionably play its part.

We need end users to demand zero carbon solutions and accept that they may be a little more expensive in the short term. They must embrace new technology and be ambassadors for it. We need equipment rental companies, distributors and others with the widest reach to become pioneers encouraging customers to trial and understand the technology.

We need appropriate infrastructure, charging points, refuelling techniques sooner and in greater volumes than current provisions enable. We need hydrogen producers to make clean hydrogen from renewables and we all need to embrace the possibilities which hydrogen presents.

As an industry we must channel a sense of urgency on this most crucial of challenges.” (1)

As car & small vehicle manufacturers continue to push towards electrification, a more flexible & varied approach using a variety of future fuel options is also becoming necessary, especially in the heavy-duty & off-highway sectors.

In 2018 a Concawe report titled Impact Analysis of Mass EV Adoption and Low Carbon Intensity Fuels Scenarios, opened a discussion on how we should continue to embrace a variety of future fuel options for transportation, rather than putting all resources into electrification. (2)

The Concawe report brought to light specific evidence which explored the impact of entire electrification across Europe & one area highlighted was the immense cost implications for ensuring electrification could be sustained.

The report highlighted the use of a combination energy & fuel scenario which would still be able to reduce emissions by expected levels by 2050. (2)

At the time the Concawe report was published, low carbon fuels, biofuel & artificially synthesized eFuels were seen to work alongside electrification as a way of broadening the scope for developers & manufacturers. The report further noted that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) could benefit from the increased use of biofuel & eFuels.

One of the reasons end users are not aware of the complex variety of future fuel options being developed for transportation & in particular heavy-duty & off-highway, is because general media coverage of these developments is virtually non-existent. New developments from major players in the decarbonisation of the heavy-duty & off-highway sector tend to only be seen by others in the same sector.

Therefore, if a company as recognised as JCB can speak out about the need for flexibility in the decarbonisation race, this might go some way to engaging the “end users” they refer to & help them to read around the topic & become more educated in the changes which are happening in the heavy-duty & off-highway sector.

The technology being developed to support the heavy-duty & off-highway sector is already becoming quite varied. With options from methane to electrification, from synthetic fuel to hydrogen, from biofuel to pantographs & more future fuel options being developed all of the time; the heavy-duty & off-highway sector is already making a considerable difference.

One of the key developments in the in the heavy-duty & off-highway sector is the use of Hydrogen. Three of companies harnessing the benefits Hydrogen can provide for heavy-duty & off-highway are JCB, Cummins Inc & Dolphin N2.

JCB – Hydrogen excavator.

In 2020 JCB developed the construction industry’s first ever hydrogen powered excavator.

The 20-tonne 220X excavator powered by a hydrogen fuel cell was tested at JCB’s quarry proving grounds. The exciting development meant that JCB was the first construction equipment company in the world to unveil a working prototype of an excavator powered by hydrogen.(4)

One of the challenges with developing off-highway hydrogen products, is the infrastructure required for hydrogen refuelling.

To support hydrogen equipment, JCB has developed a hydrogen refuelling unit which stores hydrogen in cylinders.

The unit can be delivered to site and allows the user to deliver hydrogen via a nozzle into their machine when needed. It only takes minutes to fill up, which is comparable with diesel fuels. JCB refuelling units can refuel a JCB machine up to 16 times before needing to be recharged. (5)

Cummins Inc – Hydrogen for high-energy use applications

There are few suitable low-carbon alternatives for off-highway equipment. This includes excavators, wheel loaders, tractors and combines, among others. To meet the requirements of round-the-clock, high-energy usage in difficult environments, hydrogen internal combustion engines are a straightforward solution. (6)

Cummins is planning to offer two hydrogen internal combustion engines, available in 6.7 and 15 litre variants. The engines are a part of Cummins’ new fuel agnostic platform, where below the head gasket each fuel type’s engine remains the same. (6)

Dolphin N2 – The Recuperated Split Cycle Engine

Dolphin N2 have had a multi-cylinder prototype of the running RSCE since December 2020 & the data looks promising with high thermal efficiency –55-60% BTE, low emissions – NOx at SULEV or below with standard SCR & fuel compatibility with Diesel, Methane & Hydrogen.

As part of the Future Propulsion Conference 2022, Nick Owen – Technical Director at Dolphin, spoke about how Hydrogen is politically favoured as an “alternative to electricity” for an on-highway application as it is already readily produced from renewables, with zero “source to tank” & net GHG (which matters) Hydrogen also produces zero GHG at the tailpipe (politically popular), is fairly quick to refuel – the energy density is acceptable with compromise & it suits both Fuel Cell & ICE – creating critical mass of demand. (7)

The benefits of a Hydrogen ICE are that a Hydrogen ICE works, is fast to adopt, uses the same supply chain as current manufacturers, has familiar servicing needs, NOx is entirely manageable via lean burn & in principle it suits a Recuperated Split Cycle. “Fast oxidation” combustion is fuel agnostic – violent mixing with red-hot sonic & supercritical air will burn many things & if Hydrogen can maintain BOTH high efficiency & low NOx, the advantages are clear. (7)

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