Agriculturee-fuelElectrificationEnvironment & ClimateHeavy Duty & Off-highwayHydrogenMarine & heavy dutySustainability

Why a multi-fuel approach supports the decarbonisation of heavy-duty, off-highway, agriculture and marine.

By June 28, 2023 No Comments

There is not ‘one’ definitive zero-emissions solution for the future of transport. A bold statement, but a realistic one.

To say there is, is closed minded and shows a resistance to acceptance of a wide range of future fuel options. Despite electrification being hailed in some quarters as the ‘only’ way to a net zero future, as is slowly being realised this simply is not currently possible.

There are a few obstacles currently in the way of an all-electric future for all transport. Scalability of renewable energy, life cycle analysis proving electric vehicles are not zero emissions and, in some cases, electric currently not being fit for purpose in certain sectors. These are just a few of the challenges facing an all-electric future for all transport.

One of the many challenges for an all-electric future is in the difficult to decarbonise sectors such as heavy-duty, off-highway, agriculture, marine and aviation.

Despite huge advances in battery technologies, it would still be unfeasible to fly a passenger plane as a BEV for example and or power a multi-tonne container ship continuously halfway round the world.

Five years ago, the Concawe report with research carried out by Ricardo, opened a discussion on how we could continue to embrace a selection of power sources for transportation and energy, rather than putting all resources into battery and electrification.

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

The report highlighted the effective use of a combination energy and fuel scenario which would still be able to reduce emissions by the expected and expected levels by 2050. The report evaluated the use of a combination of low carbon fuels, alongside biofuel and artificially synthesised eFuels.

At the time the Concawe report was published, low carbon fuels, biofuel and artificially synthesised eFuels were seen to work alongside electrification. The report further noted that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) could benefit from the increased use of biofuel and eFuels.

Fast forward five years and the EU have accepted eFuels as part of their road to net zero plans and international recognition of a need to reduce emissions with a blended approach is slowly being realised.

However, one area which still faces decarbonisation challenges is in the heavy-duty, off-highway, agriculture, marine and aviation. Therefore, what are the options available to dramatically reduce emissions in the difficult to decarbonise transport sectors and could a multi fuel approach be the answer?

We have collated three examples of alternative fuels which are being developed specifically for the heavy-duty, off-highway, agriculture, marine and aviation sectors to reduce emissions, drive towards net zero and further mitigate climate change.

Note: This list is not exhaustive and is for illustration purposes only.


With nearly 90% of global goods being shipped in cargo containers, this is still the cheapest method of moving goods making it very appealing to global companies.

Global shipping produces approximately 3% of global CO2 emissions. Container ships currently and predominantly still run on ‘bunker fuel’ producing carbon dioxide and black carbon, a fine particulate that can absorb a million times the energy of CO2.

Commercial marine vessels also have additional issues to contend with namely long service lives with bulk carriers, tankers and container ships the main contributors to GHG’s.

Although hydrogen is being hailed as one heavy-duty sustainable alternative fuel, it is Ammonia (NH3) which is being developed as an alternative to HFO in the marine sector.

Ammonia having been shipped as bulk cargo for some 100 years, means that the marine industry is familiar with its use and handling.

However, there are still a handful of challenges that the marine industry must overcome before shipowners can safely use ammonia as fuel. These range from questions of risk and safety to regulatory concerns and assessing all aspects of ammonia’s sustainability as a fuel. (1)

With the need for further data and development of a stable, sustainable, and readily available source of ammonia for shipping and marine vessels; there are a host of research and development programmes being undertaken worldwide.

One project which received a £5M investment from UKRI Innovate UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, is focusing specifically on the development of ‘Decarbonised Clean Marine: Green Ammonia Thermal Propulsion (MariNH3)’

Dolphin N2, alongside 18 other partners, are working with a host of university professors at the University of Nottingham – Faculty of Engineering.

The aim of the project is to overcome the key related technical, economic, and social unknowns of the development of green ammonia (NH3) through flexible, multidisciplinary research set around disruptive NH3 engine concepts capable of high thermal efficiency and ultra-low NOx. The project will run from 2022 and conclude in 2027. (2)

Further studies into the positive use of ammonia transportation were discussed in the UK Government paper Ammonia to Green Hydrogen – Feasibility study (2020). The report recognised that ammonia in liquid form, is a carbon-free and readily dispatchable hydrogen carrier allowing the cost-effective storage and distribution of large quantities of renewable energy. (3)

The Committee on Climate change has noted that it “currently appears that converting hydrogen to ammonia as a means of transporting it over long distances would have lower costs than transporting it as hydrogen”. (3)


Methane is responsible for approximately 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. (4)

Despite inaccuracies in the recording of methane emissions, the most recent report provided in the Global Methane Budget suggests that annual global methane emissions are around 580 Mt. This estimate includes approximately 40% of the total emissions coming from natural sources and approximately 60% of the emissions coming from human activity.

The largest anthropogenic (human made methane emissions) source of methane emissions is from the agriculture sector. Agriculture is estimated to be responsible for around one quarter of emissions, closely followed by the energy sector, which includes emissions from coal, oil, natural gas and biofuels. (4)

But what can be done about the fugitive methane produced from the vast quantities of manure the global cattle sector produces?

Well, it could easily become a sustainable, renewable fuel.

One of the most talked about presentations from the Future Propulsion conference 2023 was the session ‘The fugitive Methane Tractor and its Role in the Energy Independent Farm’.

Alastair Walshaw – CNH Industrial and Dr Chris Mann – Bennamann Ltd presented the session and explored how fugitive methane can not only fuel tractors but can also support energy independent farms.

Bennamann Ltd have developed a process which captures fugitive emissions and turns the methane into useful, sustainable, renewable energy products – compressed fugitive methane, or CFM, and liquid fugitive methane, LFM. This biomethane can replace traditional fossil fuels such as petrol, diesel, heating oil, propane gas and liquid natural gas, also known as LNG. (5)

Bennamann Ltd are trialling this process at dairy farms and currently move the methane offsite for processing and then return as a usable fuel. However, plans are in process to find ways of processing methane on farms and enabling the direct access to the methane fuel, removing additional CO2 generated by its movement off and on site.

Since the Future Propulsion Conference, CNH Industrial have acquired a controlling stake in Bennamann, reinforcing methane’s strategic role in farming’s energy independence. (5)

Dr Chris Mann, Bennamann’s Co-founder, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer, said “CNH Industrial’s investment will help Bennamann dramatically accelerate scale-up in the deployment of our technology and realise the full potential of our integrated systems worldwide”. (5)


Hydrogen is now recognised as a key player in the race to reduce global emissions. The automotive sector and in particular the heavy-duty, off-highway and marine sectors are investing heavily in research and development in hydrogen. Furthermore, investment in hydrogen to support the decarbonisation of gas networks and increase energy demand has been steadily increasing.

The European Union and European Commission have continued to support the development of a hydrogen economy. The recognition of hydrogen as a future fuel for a broad spectrum of applications for the automotive industry and for heating networks, was given a boost when on the 27th of March 23 European Union nations agreed to install hydrogen fuelling stations in all major cities and every 200km along core routes.

Following an agreement between the Council of ministers and the European Parliament the new Regulation for the deployment of the alternative fuel infrastructure regulation was reached.

The agreement saw EU states agree to build hydrogen fuelling stations in all major cities and at least every 200km along the core Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).

Highlighting the interest in hydrogen versatility, a recent report from LCP Delta recognised that the total installed capacity of hydrogen installations across Europe could exceed 1GW for the first time in 2023.

The United Kingdom and Germany will play pivotal roles in creating significant milestones in hydrogen production for the European renewable energy market.

Both countries have over 400MW of projects in place for 2023, potentially bringing the total installed hydrogen capacity across Europe from around 236MW in 2022 to over 2GW in 2023. The report also indicates that increases in hydrogen capacity could reach over 22GW by the end of 2027.

Hydrogen fuel cells

Hydrogen fuel cell systems have a high energy efficiency, making them highly efficient in converting hydrogen fuel into electricity. This translates into improved fuel economy and longer-range for heavy-duty trucks. This also provides an extended driving range compared to other alternative fuels. With advancements in hydrogen storage and infrastructure, hydrogen-powered trucks can cover long distances without compromising their performance.

We recently highlighted how four UK truck companies have harnessed the power of hydrogen and are developing their own brand of hydrogen heavy-duty vehicles.

JCB – hydrogen combustion technology.

JCB do not shy away from innovation and have been extolling the virtues of hydrogen combustion in their prototype construction and agricultural machines.

However, they have now taken this one step further and recently announced that they have installed one of their highly efficient hydrogen engines into a 7.5 tonne Mercedes truck.

The installation was completed in just a few days and one of the truck’s first test drivers was JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford, who has been spearheading JCB’s £100 million hydrogen project. (6)

The former diesel truck at the centre of JCB’s latest project is a breakthrough in hydrogen combustion technology, underlining that this sort of power could represent a much quicker way to reach global CO2 emissions targets.

DAF – hydrogen combustion engines and fuel cell technology.

DAF NV have been designing and developing trucks for over 90 years and UK DAF for over 50 years. DAF have long been innovators in the truck development sector and are now part of hydrogen innovation in the heavy-duty sector.

While PACCAR (global technology leader in the design, manufacture and customer support of high-quality light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks) explores fuel cell technology, DAF UK is developing an ICE to run on hydrogen.

Compared to the fuel cell hydrogen solution, the combustion engine option has transient capabilities (eliminating the need of a large energy storage system). Other advantages include the lower cooling capabilities needed and lower sensitivity to hydrogen purity. (7)

DAF believe that by harnessing the power of hydrogen combustion, they can continue to use existing distribution networks and established infrastructures.

Tevva – hydrogen fuel cell truck technology.

Tevva’s largest truck to date, the 19-tonne hydrogen-electric model signifies a considerable milestone and highlights the scalability of its technology.

By adding a hydrogen fuel cell system to its battery-electric HGV design, Tevva delivers zero-emission solutions that will work for most fleet operators across various industries and sectors. The fuel cell system tops up the battery, extending the vehicle’s range and allowing the truck to carry heavier loads over longer distances.  With a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometres) the Tevva hydrogen tanks can be refilled in 10 minutes. (8)

One advantage of using the fuel cell as a range extender rather than the primary power source is that it allows Tevva to provide smaller, cheaper and lighter fuel cells and operate these at the highest possible efficiency. (8)

Hydrogen Vehicle Systems Ltd (HVS) – hydrogen fuel cell technology.

HVS is a new UK-based hydrogen truck manufacturer and innovator in the heavy-duty sector. HVS having initially had a £5M investment from EG Group and subsequently a further £25m; have also benefitted from £15M grant from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) as part of a wider funding package to support zero emission transport.

In April 2023 HVS unveiled its 40-tonne HGV technology demonstrator, featuring a unique powertrain and radical cab design, making it the first indigenous UK Hydrogen HGV, designed, and built from the ground up. (9)

A reinvention of the commercial vehicle design, the HVS 40 tonne hydrogen fuel cell truck is aimed at optimising range, payload, weight distribution, direct vision, aerodynamics and sports an ergonomically practical cab design. With a range of 370-mile (600 kilometre) range, the HVS truck can also be refuelled in just 20 minutes.

The future has got to see emissions from all sectors dramatically reduce. From industry to agriculture, from transport to manufacturing all sectors, all countries have got to act on their promises and put their emission reduction plans into action.

However, with a blended and multi layered approach to reducing and in some cases eradicating emissions altogether, the human inhabitants of our little blue planet can reverse the current climate catastrophe we seem to be on. Sounds bleak, it is. But with a global collaborative approach, humans can prove they are far more resilient than they think they are.

Written by Katy Mason for and on behalf of Dolphin N2.