Air QualityEnvironment & ClimateFossil FuelsHeavy Duty & Off-highwayMarine & heavy dutySustainability

Hydrogen ICE’s. Could they be a solution for heavy-duty & off-highway as part of the drive toward zero emissions?

By March 17, 2022 No Comments

One of the resounding messages which was taken from the recent Future Propulsion Conference (02/03-03-2022) are the inherent challenges faced by the heavy duty & off-highway sector in their drive towards zero tailpipe emissions.

With the UK Government focussing on the eradication of petrol & diesel passenger cars & light goods vehicles by 2030, media outlets mostly sideline the options for the heavy duty sectors, forgetting that it is this sector which still delivers their food & lifestyle necessities hundreds of thousands of miles for their consumption.

During Day 1 the Seminar ‘Heavy Duty & Off Highway’ chaired by Dr Francesca Iudicello from Innovate UK, explored how the heavy duty sector is seeking ways to reduce emissions whilst still optimising maximum efficiency.

Ryan Ballard – Engineering Director, Powertrain – JCB, explored “Hydrogen as a Route to Zero Emissions for off Highway Heavy Duty Applications”

Ryan’s presentation explored how JCB are answering the need for electrification & have produced 7 compact electrified products & the response from their customer base was encouraging.

However, JCB are realistic when it comes to the needs of a 20 tonne excavator moving 4 tonnes of earth per minute for example & that is that electrification is simply not a viable option & therefore hydrogen has become a “compelling solution”. Ryan noted however that hydraulic systems for off-highway machinery show huge inefficiencies in usage when using electrification & therefore alternative strategies have been put in place to mitigate this.

JCB are therefore utilising Hydrogen in an ICE model in which they have been able to use advanced boosting & hybridisation to mitigate NOx. With diesel engines still able to perform energy density efficiency, the hydrogen ICE solution is a way of mimicking the performance, whilst also moving towards a zero emissions solution.

The message JCB’s Ryan Ballard brought to FPC2022, echo’s Jo Bamford’s (son of JCB chairman Lord Bamford) ideas which he brought to the New Power Progress Summit in May 2021.

New Power Progress Summit 05/2021. Jo Bamford, Ryse Hydrogen Founder, on hydrogen as a future fuel.

Bamford spoke about hydrogen as the fuel of the now, not the future. His company, Ryse Hydrogen, has been producing & supplying Green Hydrogen over the past four years & most notably supplies Green Hydrogen to fuel the Wrightbus Hydrogen Buses.

Bamford spoke of the mass adoption of hydrogen by the consumer, as not only a way to zero emissions, but that hydrogen is the fuel most replicated by human behaviour. Humans are so used to being able to take their vehicle to a fuel filling station, that the notion of having to plug in an electric vehicle does not always appeal, nor fit into the expectations of seamless travel. However, as hydrogen has the capacity to refill in the same way as liquid fossil fuels; this poses a more appealing option.

Bamford recognised that electrification for the car industry still makes sense, however, when it comes to off-highway, heavy duty & construction, there are inherent limitations on the use of battery technologies.

Despite there having been considerable developments in battery electric off-highway vehicles in Europe with the roll out of highways with inbuilt pantograph power collectors to charge on board batteries; this is still very much in the development phase.

Bamford went on to illustrate that a Bus can travel 300 miles fuelled by diesel & takes only minutes to fill up, it can travel 285 miles on hydrogen & take 7 minutes to fill up & 183 miles on a battery model & take 7 hours to charged (Bamford’s words).

When asked about the infrastructure of hydrogen fuelling, Bamford pointed out that although it is rolling out, he appreciated that industry sites & in particular where off-highway & construction vehicles are working daily; the fuelling infrastructure currently has to come to the site & be installed, rather than hydrogen currently being easily & readily available.

The new 10 point £12B Net Zero transition plan having been announced by our Prime Minister Boris Johnson in November 2020, includes the following point on hydrogen:

Hydrogen – £500m to generate 5GW of “low-carbon” hydrogen production capacity by 2030

The UK will aim to generate 5GW of “low-carbon” hydrogen production capacity by 2030. Up to £500m will be invested in a bid to create a Hydrogen Neighbourhood in 2023, a Hydrogen Village by 2025, and to create the first town running entirely on hydrogen.

Clean hydrogen, carbon capture & storage (CCS), zero-carbon transport & offshore wind are all key pillars to Boris Johnson’s Net Zero plans & is set to generate 250,000 Green Jobs in the process. (1)


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