UK firm to demonstrate “world’s first” hydrogen-fuelled combustion engine truck

Engineers at Liverpool-based hydrogen fuel specialist ULEMCo have announced plans to demonstrate a zero-emission truck powered by a hydrogen fuelled combustion engine.

hydrogen-fuelled combustion

The technology will be demonstrated on a modified version of Volvo’s most powerful truck, the FH16. It is expected to take to the roads later this year.

Claimed to represent the world’s first application of a ‘zero emission’ combustion engine, the project – which has been jointly funded by ULEMCo and Innovate UK - 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 so-called Mega Low Emissions (MLE) truck uses hydrogen to power the vehicle using a combustion engine rather than via fuel cells and an electric motor. ULEMCo claims that 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.

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 whilst simultaneously 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 under 300km unloaded is expected. As hydrogen storage is the only additional hardware, a smaller reduction in payload is experienced than with other low emission approaches.

The company is targeting commercial fleet retrofits, operating in urban areas such as refuse collection and local deliveries, where back-to-base refuelling can be implemented, or those in proximity to the growing number of publicly accessible stations in the UK and globally. ULEMCo’s growth plans include creating a hydrogen re-fuelling network to capitalise on the existing local infrastructure for this 'green' fuel.

“We are hugely excited about the potential for hydrogen fuel as a route to faster achievement of zero carbon emission in commercial vehicles”, said ULEMCo’s CEO Amanda Lyne. “With this MLE demonstrator…we are showing that 100 per cent 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.”