A team of engineers from UNSW Sydney have successfully converted a standard diesel engine to run as a hybrid diesel hydrogen engine. The resulting hybrid reduces CO2 emissions by 85%, and increases output efficiency by around 26%. The team, led by Professor Shawn Kook, spent some 18 months developing the direct injection dual fuel system. The retrofitted engine runs using 90% hydrogen.
Professors Kook believe that the new tech could significantly reduce the emissions from the trucking industry and the large diesel engines used in the mining and agricultural sectors. The goal would be to use green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy sources, thus bringing the emission footprint of a diesel powered engine down to almost zero.
Hydrogen As A New Clean Fuel?
As well as producing a scientific paper on the new technology, the team have provided some other details on how it all works. The new system does its magic by injecting hydrogen directly into the cylinders in the engine. They avoid creating additional nitrogen oxide NoX emissions by clever engineering which varies the inputs via stratification. As a result the hybrid emits less NoX than a pure diesel engine.
They’re calling it the Hydrogen-Diesel Direct Injection Dual-Fuel System, which doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but who’s quibbling? Two key points of the development is the fact that a) it doesn’t need to use the ultra processed hydrogen typically found in hydrogen vehicle systems and b) the technology is relatively straightforward to retrofit. This means the team are hoping to roll out a commercial product within 12 to 24 months.
There’s no information on the costs of a retrofit, or whether the technology could be adapted for consumer use in daily drivers. The problem lies in the fact that the engine has to have a hydrogen storage tank added to it, and a readily available source of hydrogen for refilling. This infrastructure is more readily found in industrial sectors like mining, than in a typical suburban home.
Hydrogen Retrofit Answer For The Future?
These negatives aside, the emissions from industrial diesel motors is huge, so anything that could potentially quickly and easily reduce those will definitely help with our global CO2 emissions target in a big way. The trucking industry is faced with a huge problem in reducing emissions over the next 10 years, and this could be one solution just waiting to be deployed.
The team’s report says that about 30 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by the use of diesel engines, largely in mining vehicles and power generators. That’s a big target to aim for.
It’s not clear how much hydrogen storage is required for this system, or how efficiently the system uses hydrogen. But again these are issues which will undoubtedly be resolved by the team as they move closer to commercial production. We also don’t know how complicated it is to do the retrofit or whether it can be done by a typical diesel mechanical shop.