Air QualityBiofuelCryoPowerEnvironment & ClimateFossil Fuels

Nick Owen – Technical Director Dolphin N2 presents at the Sustainable ICE Virtual ‘Live’ event, 04 February 2021

By February 4, 2021 No Comments

The Sustainable ICE Virtual ‘Live’ event has been 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.

The Sustainable ICE event opened with a presentation from Ian Constance, CEO of the Advanced Propulsion Centre.

The role of the internal combustion engine in a net-zero future – Ian Constance, CEO, Advanced Propulsion Centre

Ian Constance acknowledged that nearly a year ago he was sure in his own mind that after the initial shock of the Covid19 lockdown in March 2020, by the Summer 2020 things would have moved on & we would have been functioning somewhere nearer normal. However, nearly one year on & here he stood in a virtual presentation rather than on a stage surround by attendees.

In his presentation Ian Constance identified that during the first lockdown there were some hopeful signs as air quality improved due to lack of human movement & transportation restrictions. However, he also observed that all too quickly these gains could be lost once transportation movement became somewhere near the norm.

“Humans are pretty inflexible & all too quickly could snap back to where we started from” implying that any gains made in reducing CO2 emissions, would & could be lost as transport & industry recover.

Therefore, what is the future of the ICE in a net-zero future & “is this the death knell of the ICE?”

For the mainstream automotive sector, namely passenger cars & vans, the future is most certainly for BEV to be adopted & as Ian Constance observed, with cars being idle up to 90% of the time, the move forward to BEV & or hybrid is the right path for passenger vehicles & vans, but currently the application would not be feasible for heavy duty & freight.

Therefore, what does Ian Constance see as the fuelling options for the heavy-duty sector as a way of driving down emissions, NOx & particulates? With freight being responsible for “17% of our emissions & only representing 5% of the vehicles on our roads”, how can the sector drive down the tail pipe emissions to 0%?

Ian Constance suggested four distinct possibilities as options for alternative heavy duty & freight fuelling:

Hydrogen – Used in either combustion or fuel cells

E-Fuel – Fuels derived from carbon & waste products

Ammonia – Mostly being considered for marine applications

BEV – Overhead wires to charge heavy duty or freight on route

However, with the infrastructure & the capital investment still a considerable issue & despite CNG having made some headway into the sector; the 0% tailpipe emissions for the heavy duty & freight sector, will inevitably take longer to transition & adapt, as opposed to passenger vehicles & vans.

Nevertheless, Ian did acknowledge that there is some considerable headway being made in waste heat recovery & recuperating cycle engines for heavy duty & freight which are showing promise. However, in the short-term synthetic fuels will continue to enable heavy duty & freight to remain on the roads.

Despite the Covid19 pandemic & all the challenges which this has brought with it, Ian Constance believes the ICE is still valid & with continuous improvement will remain.

LIVE PANEL – Post-Pandemic Automotive Industry – Marko Certic (AVL List GmbH), – Ian Constance, CEO, (Advanced Propulsion Centre), Michael Southcott (IHS Markit (UK)  

This live panel brought many issues to the table & focused on the role of the ICE in a post pandemic setting.

One of the discussion points focused on was the impact of the Euro 7 legislation & how this will change the future of the ICE & in particular what the Euro 7 expectations on NOx & particulate emissions in freight & heavy duty might look like.

As part of the discussion, the topic of net zero & carbon emissions in relation to battery manufacture was evaluated by the panellists.

Despite the user driving emissions from a BEV being zero CO2, life cycle analysis still cannot prove that from sourcing of materials, to manufacture, to user & to the end of life, that a BEV is a net zero emissions vehicle.

One of the greater issues discussed is not only the vast amounts of carbon generated by the electric powered manufacturing plants the batteries are being developed in; but the need for natural elements to include in the batteries & how long the earth can naturally supply & sustain these for a BEV future?

LIVE PANEL – Diesel Powertrains Robert Morgan – University of Brighton Moderator, Thomas Korfer (FEV Group GMBH) Hans-Josef Schiffgens (Tula Technology) Ralf Bey (FEV Europe GmbH) Can Kayacan (Institute for Combustion Engines of RWTH Aachen University)

The opening gambit posed by Professor Robert Morgan was “What is the future of the diesel powertrain?”

Thomas Korfer acknowledged that to ensure reductions in GHG emissions & improve air quality, there needs to be clear legislation to guide OEM’s & technology manufacturers. Despite the expectations of the new Euro 7 legislation, in his terms “real life is not that easy”. Hans-Josef Schiffgens brought the issue that heavy duty & freight are working vehicles & in use all of the time, unlike passenger vehicles & vans & they therefore need an engine technology which can cope in an off-highway scenario.

Attendees to the event were able to ask their own questions & one of which asked the question “Could air quality still be negatively affected by pre Euro 7 diesel engines?” (Euro 6 & before)

Again Thomas Korfer acknowledged that the European Commission were already looking at the extended performance in the field & that if components could be added in an after market scenario to reduce tail pipe emissions; then this could be a solution to the long term transition in the changes needed to reduce emissions.

Hans-Josef focused very much on the theory of blending synthetic & eFuels  fuels with existing fuels. The process could allow existing ICE’s to adapt to the needs of the change in fuelling; but the infrastructure in manufacturing & fuelling availability would not have  to change & therefore costs & additional carbon production due to wide spread changes to the infrastructure could be avoided.

One of the attendees asked the following question of the panel:

Ian Constance CEO APC mentioned in his presentation yesterday that there has been some promising developments in waste heat recovery & recuperating cycle engines for heavy duty & freight. What are your views on this?

The panel responded thus:

Hans-Josef Schiffgens – Tula Technology “I don’t know about that”

Thomas Forfer, FEV Group GMBH – Summary. He didn’t know about it in detail, however he believed that an OEM would not be interested if the technology involved major manufacturing changes & infrastructure investment & that he didn’t feel it had a future! “If it can be realised in an existing engine quite easily, then yes it’s a good chance & we will most likely see it. If it is linked to a major reorganisation of the production line, I have major doubts”

Ralf Bey, FEV Group – He responded by saying that split-cycle is not new tech & has been in development for many years. “There is some theoretical efficiency but there are some disadvantages when transporting the fuel from one cylinder to another”

The recuperated split-cycle engine – a sustainable, lasting solution for the heavy-duty sector Nick Owen – Technical Director, Dolphin N2

Nick Owen’s presentation, brought the Dolphin N2 technology to a new audience. The heavy duty & off-highway sector cannot be governed by the same legislation being used to drive down CO2 emissions in cars & light vans as Nick says “heavy duty work all of the time” & therefore their engines & drivetrain needs are worlds apart.

Despite the push towards BEV, Nick Owen acknowledged that in a heavy-duty context, this simply is not practical. “Batteries are dogged by weight issues” & despite the future batteries most likely becoming lighter, in his words “you cannot change the laws of physics” & in a heavy-duty context electrification will always pose charging & infrastructure investment issues.

The Dolphin N2 engine having been developed through a collaborative approach with funding, partnerships & working alongside the University of Brighton; now has a running multi cylinder prototype.

Recognising that if sustainability was not the main issues facing transportation, Nick Owen presented five alternative scenarios & their pros & cons (please see the slide below)

Therefore, why is the Dolphin N2 engine so appealing? The recuperated Split Cycle engine produces the following appealing attributes:

  • High thermal efficiency – 55-60% BTE
  • Low emissions – NOx at SULEV or below
  • Fuel compatible with Diesel, Methane & Hydrogen
  • Targets the long haul, heavy-duty sector where most commercial vehicle CO2 originates, alternatives are most challenging

The Dolphin N2 recuperated split-cycle engine is unique in it’s application, due to the CryoPower technologies developed by the collaborative team at Dolphin N2.

CryoPower and ThermoPower are Recuperated Split Cycle Engines. The revolutionary step is to separate the “cold” and “hot” parts of the traditional internal combustion engine. (1)

A first set of cylinders draw in air and compress it – in the CryoPower version, Liquid Nitrogen is injected to keep this process cool for maximum efficiency; the simpler ThermoPower injects water. Then the compressed air passes through a recuperator, where the engine’s exhaust heats it up – saving fuel which normally has to do this. The air now passes to the second, hot cylinder set, which are thoroughly insulated – infeasible in a normal ICE where the same cylinder handles hot and cold processes. These cylinders host the combustion and expansion events, which produce power; they are bigger than the compressor cylinders (again impossible in a standard engine) because that is most efficient. (1)

As a final twist, the hot air passing into these combustion cylinders does so at the speed of sound, leading to extraordinary mixing with the fuel, and a unique “cool combustion” regime. The very low level of emissions, especially NOx and Particulates, can be reduced to at least SULEV and potentially lower using known “SCR” (Urea-based) after-treatment. (1)

With the Dolphin N2 ‘Game Changing’ technology & team having been purchased by FPT Industrial in December 2019, Nick Owen recognises that the UK are showing less support for anything in the heavy-duty sector which does not involve Hydrogen.

“To conclude. 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.

So, we shouldn’t forget that the ICE has an awful lot to offer & an engine like the recuperated split-cycle, I hope I have shown you, is it’s clean, it’s efficient & it provides an answer without some of the drawbacks.

The human health impacts are smaller than the human health impact of ignoring climate change & it is easy to adopt, which means we can have the impact now, which we really need to do.

This is not just fiction anymore & the real one (engine) is running & has been running the five to six days now & it definitely works.

But the fuel is absolutely key & zero or negative carbon fuels are possible, they work with this technology & we need the policy support to swing a little from electrification to help us get the fuel infrastructure in place”


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