BiofuelCryoPowerEnvironment & ClimateFossil FuelsHeavy Duty & Off-highwaySustainabilityThermoPower

How are on & off highway manufacturers adapting drivetrains & using Hydrogen to achieve zero tailpipe emissions?

By January 6, 2022 No Comments

With the ban on the sale of new petrol & diesel cars & vans in the UK now only 8 years away; the automotive industry has got it’s work cut out to meet expectations.

Over the past year the UK Government has announced more innovation & funding for the electrification of passenger vehicles & small vans. The phrase ‘battery gigafactory’ is now part of the UK’s automotive development landscape, as the UK ramps up the need for battery production for a fully electric future.

Despite legislation still permitting hybrid vehicles to be in production until 2035, the future of the UK car & small van market is very quiet & it’s all electric.

However, despite National & International developments in passenger vehicle, car & vans being replaced by electric, there are several sectors where fossil fuel’s, biofuels, hydrogen & LNG will take a lot longer to replace.

The heavy duty, off-highway, construction, marine & aviation industries are sectors where the transition to a fully emission free fuel which is sustainable & substantial enough to match up to it’s fossil fuel alternative, is far more of a challenge to the automotive/marine/aviation manufacturers.

Despite huge developments in the use of electrification of heavy duty & off highway, there are still range anxiety & longevity of continual performance issues to address. The marine & aviation industries have been utilising biofuel developments, but still currently need a high percentage of fossil fuel & or high-octane fuel to ensure their planes stay in the air & their ocean going vessels have enough fuel to deliver goods around the world.

There is still a lot to be done to reduce the national & international emissions levels generated by the human need for movement of people & lifestyle goods & services.

Despite the vast advances made in the technologies needed to transition to emission free travel, some of our developing countries, heavily reliant on the cast off’s of the developed world, will be reliant on fossil fuel vehicles for decades to come.

As petrol & diesel transportation is banned in many nations across the globe & developed countries need to find ways of disposing of billions of cars, vans & trucks; it will be developing nations who continue using them until their end of life, while the rest of the world transitions to emissions free.

Taking all of the above into account, it is well known & accepted that heavy duty, off-highway, construction, marine & aviation will take some considerable time to move beyond a reliance of some form of fossil fuel & therefore, despite international bans on the internal combustion engine being sought, it won’t necessarily have to sound the death of the ICE.

Professor Robert Morgan of the University of Brighton once said “The internal combustion engine is still the most efficient form of transportation, we have just got to get the science behind it”

Cummins Inc are one of the largest on & off highway vehicle manufacturers in the world & are at the cutting edge of technological advances in this sector.

Jonathon White, Vice-President of Engine Business Engineering has said of the Cummins capabilities:

“The hydrogen engine program can potentially expand the technology options available to achieve a more sustainable transport sector, complementing our capabilities in hydrogen fuel cell, battery electric and renewable natural gas powertrains,”(1)

“Hydrogen engines offer OEMs and end-users the benefit of adaptability by continuing to use familiar mechanical drivelines with vehicle and equipment integration mirroring that of current powertrains while continuing to provide the power and capability for meeting application needs.” (1)

“The hydrogen engines can use green hydrogen fuel, produced by Cummins-manufactured electrolyzers, emitting near zero CO2 emissions through the tailpipe and near zero levels of NOx” (1)

In February 2021, Nick Owen – Technical Director of Dolphin N2 attended the Sustainable ICE Virtual ‘Live’ event which gave an opportunity for speakers from the ICE sector to discuss & debate the future of gasoline, diesel & alternative-fuel IC engines & some of the pressing issues surrounding the role of the ICE post-pandemic.

As part of Nick Owens presentation, he boldly challenged the difficulties the on & off highway sector face when feasibly transitioning to zero emissions & still remaining sustainable:

“This is a difficult sector & we mustn’t forget that it’s a difficult sector. Long haul applications are acknowledged by everybody & even environmental pressure groups say that it’s difficult, with no clear solution.” (2)

“Therefore, we shouldn’t forget that the ICE has an awful lot to offer & an engine like the Dolphin N2 recuperated split-cycle engine is clean, it’s efficient & it provides an answer without some of the drawbacks.” (2)

The Recuperated Split Cycle is an internal combustion engine, with all that implies in terms of low cost & ease of manufacture, that aims to compete with zero emission drivetrains. (3)

There are in fact two versions of the technology: ThermoPower® is a simplified system offering most of the air quality benefits and efficiency advantage versus advanced diesel engines in research; CryoPower® delivers ultimate efficiency & air quality by addition of Liquid Nitrogen or Air to its internal processes. (3)

The Dolphin N2 combustion system has already been demonstrated on methane gas (which can be made from wastes as a carbon-negative fuel), but Hydrogen is emerging as a leading contender for heavy duty road transport.

The Dolphin N2 partnership with the University of Brighton has allowed them to explore how Hydrogen might suit ThermoPowerTM using computer simulations, & the results looked good.

Therefore, in 2021 Dolphin N2 adapted their Titan single cylinder research engine to use this fuel, with help from the UK Advanced Propulsion Centre in the form of a research grant.

Dolphin N2 have now completed two sets of tests, & sure enough, it works – the same combustion efficiency, & the same low NOx emissions.

Going forward, Dolphin N2 are looking to upgrade the Titan with an improved Hydrogen injection system, then apply the findings to a proper multi-cylinder engine within 2022.

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