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The road to net zero. How is the UK automotive industry standing up to the challenge?

By July 30, 2019 No Comments

The UK has set a legal target to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy has stated that they are already on target, by citing the following statistics:

  • 2008 1st to set long-term legally-binding climate targets
  • 2015 key role in the Paris Agreement
  • 2017 committed to phase out coal by 2025
  • 2018 50% of electricity from low carbon sources (1)

As we see a new Prime Minister take office, we have watched the new cabinet change over night & with this change a new Secretary of State for BEIS Andrea Leadsom MP Member of Parliament for South takes office.

In her Twitter feed of 24.07.19 she stated that she was “honoured” to be appointed as Secretary of State for BEIS & that she would look forward to “supporting UK businesses as we make our way in the world once we have left the European Union and of course also tackling the vital issue of global climate change” .

It is in an interesting priority list as the UK businesses Andrea Leadsom speaks of, are all bound to support the need for net zero emissions by 2050 & therefore for them the ‘vital issue of global climate change’ is a priority, not a secondary notion in line with the leaving of the EU.

Despite the changes at No 10 & yet more uncertainty about the UK economy, infrastructure & political stability; the legally binding notion of net zero emissions by 2050 remains a primary focus for UK industry.

On Thursday 25th July Nissan announced 12.5K job losses globally citing the changes in traditional petrol/diesel engines, the shift to zero emissions vehicles & tumbling profits, as a reasoning for their sweeping job cuts.

‘The cuts are expected to fall mainly in factories outside Japan and will increase fears of job losses at Nissan’s operation in Sunderland, the UK’s largest car plant.

Workers are already facing uncertainty after Nissan in March cancelled the production of two luxury Infiniti models, part of its plans to pull out of the premium car market in western Europe.

That decision followed Nissan’s shock announcement to build its new X-Trail in Japan. The company had previously chosen Sunderland for the X-Trail after initially receiving pledges of more than £80m in government help. This offer was later reduced to £61m.’ (2)

If such a giant as Nissan is feeling the financial pinch in the face of the expectations put upon them to reach net zero emissions, how are other automotive manufacturers & developers facing up to this challenge?

We have spoken extensively about the use of renewables, the phasing out of fossil fuels & the need for combination fuelling for a sustainable automotive & haulage future. However, with a more knee jerk reaction seeming to focus all of the efforts towards electrification; how can this ultimately be a truly sustainable future for the automotive & haulage industries, when we will still need to produce the energy required for this vast shift towards electrification?

With global demand for energy per capita predicted to peak in 2030 according to the World Energy Council (2016 ref) they also predicted in the report that after 2030, per capita needs would begin to fall.

However, ‘while overall per capita energy demand would begin to fall, demand for electricity would double by 2060, the council said, requiring greater infrastructure investment in smart systems that promote energy efficiency’ (3) Offshore wind farms, solar farms, hydrogen, cryogenics, anaerobic digestion gas production are all renewable energy sources we are all familiar with; but do they cumulatively enable us to still have the capacity to transport our lifestyle essentials globally without a considerable drop in efficiency?

The Guardian recently reported on the changes that the UK would need to make to secure a net zero future.

‘There are only about 210,000 electric vehicles in the UK. About 1% of households use an all-electric car and about 2% hybrids, so tens of millions of cars will have to be replaced. Public transport, walking, cycling and ways of working that avoid travel will also be part of the solution.’

‘The government has pledged to phase out diesel and petrol cars by 2040, but that target should be brought forward to 2030, according to the CCC.

The government has slashed support for electric vehicles, resulting in slower take-up. A lack of charging points is also hitting demand. There are about 8,500, but they are not spread evenly across the country, and some towns have few or none.’ (4)

With the government pledge to phase out petrol & diesel cars by 2040, we have to consider if at any juncture, they are planning to focus on the haulage & life style transportation issues facing automotive manufacturers? Earlier this year the EU made it law to ensure that all newly built trucks would have to meet stringent emissions regulations:

‘The rules will require that between 2025 and 2029 new trucks must emit on average 15% less CO2, compared to 2019 truck emission levels. Then starting in 2030, they will be required to emit on average 30% less CO2 than in 2019.

“Those targets are binding, and truck manufacturers which do not comply will have to pay a financial penalty in the form of an excess emissions premium,” the EU stated in a press release. On the other hand, making the new rule something of a carrot-and-stick deal, the EU also said it was “strengthening” incentives for OEMs to build low- and zero-emission trucks.’ (5)

With this in mind, the Dolphin N2 CryoPower split cycle diesel engine, is clearly a vital option for the future of our net zero emissions haulage fleets.

CryoPower is an internal combustion engine, with all that implies in terms of low cost and ease of manufacture, that aims to compete with zeroemission drivetrains. It targets longhaul trucks (where zero-emission technology is least easy to apply), 0.5-50MW distributed power generation (an area seeing rapid growth to reinforce electricity grids and balance out intermittent renewables), and mixed-mode rail.

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. A first set of cylinders draw in air and compresses it – in the CryoPower version, Liquid Nitrogen is injected to keep this process cool for maximum efficiency; the simpler ThermoPower omits it.

The compressed air then passes through a recuperator absorbing heat energy from the exhaust thereby reducing the energy required from the fuel.

The fuel reaction in the hot expansion chamber is a low temperature oxidation more similar to a fuel cell than a combustion engine which avoids the generation of Nox and particulates.  The split cycle layout allows the conditions to be optimised for a wide range of Fossil and non fossil Fuels.

The project is well supported by a Government backed Innovate UK grant which has enabled the early test and simulation work. Continued support could put this technology on the road in the next 3-5 years and start to support the Government’s Paris agreement targets.

Written by Katy-Jane Mason on behalf of Dolphin N2