The UK could soon see the first HGV take to the streets powered entirely by hydrogen combustion rather than fuel cells or dual fuel systems.
A truck with a combustion engine powered entirely from zero carbon hydrogen fuel will take to the roads later this year. Developed by hydrogen fuel pioneer ULEMCo, the converted VOLVO FH16 vehicle will use what is believed to be the first ‘zero emission’ combustion engine anywhere in the world. The 100% hydrogen combustion truck, with Mega Low Emissions (MLE), is designed to provide a dramatic demonstration of how hydrogen fuel can be deployed to decarbonise heavy goods vehicles efficiently and cost effectively.
Unlike other ‘hydrogen fuelled’ vehicles, the MLE truck uses hydrogen to power the vehicle using a combustion engine rather than via fuel cells and an electric motor. However, in common with fuel cell versions, there will be none of the usual emissions from hydrocarbons that impact on air quality – such as unburnt fuel, particulates, carbon monoxide etc., and the NOx levels will be immeasurably low. ULEMCo believes that using conventional engines and existing truck designs, rather than the full transformation needed for electrification, the time frame to the target of zero carbon emissions can be shortened significantly, at the same time dramatically reducing the cost of the change for customers.
By applying ULEMCo’s knowledge of the efficient combustion of hydrogen and the use of hydrogen fuel directly in combustion engines, a significant simplification of the vehicle emission control systems can be achieved. Using a modified conventional engine, the powertrain cost is minimised and the company is able to demonstrate that zero emissions can be achieved in commercial vehicles at an affordable cost.
ULEMCo has converted many vehicles from diesel to hydrogen dual-fuel, and these are in current active service around the UK. The demonstration vehicle will be the first all-hydrogen example, will have at least 300HP, and with 17kg of hydrogen on board, a range of just less than 300 km unloaded is expected. As hydrogen storage is the only additional hardware, a smaller reduction in payload is experienced than with other low emission approaches.
“We are hugely excited about the potential for hydrogen fuel as a route to faster achievement of zero carbon emission in commercial vehicles”, says Amanda Lyne, CEO of ULEMCo. “With this MLE demonstrator, co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, we are showing that 100% hydrogen fuel in combustion engines is a practical and cost effective option. It sits well alongside the hydrogen dual-fuel conversions that we have already implemented commercially.”