Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines (ICE)

Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines (ICE)

Hydrogen engines to power existing fleets

Hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engines offer an alternative approach to emerging fuel cell technologies.  Whilst hydrogen fuel cells currently offer higher efficiencies, they are still a relatively new and developing technology in vehicles with economics and durability yet to be proven for heavy-duty applications such as replacing diesel rail traction power. They are also not tolerant of fuel or air contaminants. Adopting hydrogen internal combustion power for decarbonising rail transport may offer a shorter timeline to readiness for fleet roll-out as Ricardo has a 100 year history in understanding and optimising internal combustion engines.

A key area of attractiveness for fleet owners is the potential to re-work existing vehicles to incorporate Hydrogen engines and potentially even modify existing engines for use with hydrogen fuels to enable key capital savings on the path to lower carbon emissions. 

Heavy-Duty Hydrogen Retrofits

In the current HIMET project (Hydrogen in an Integrated Maritime Energy Transition), Ricardo is designing, developing and testing the combustion system and the engine hardware to convert an existing natural gas engine to 100% hydrogen operation in order to decarbonise maritime transport emissions in Scotland.

The engine will be updated and tested in the new Hydrogen engine test facility in the Ricardo Shoreham Test Centre.  Ricardo will utilise the extensive hydrogen combustion knowledge developed with its hydrogen single cylinder research engine. The replacement of marine and railway diesel engines with a hydrogen version is a promising pathway to provide both new and retrofitted vessels with zero carbon emission propulsion.

Developing heavy-duty hydrogen powertrains for 2025+

In a recent Webinar Ricardo experts discussed the merits and challenges for both hydrogen engines and hydrogen fuel cells along with comparisons of their total cost of ownership.  With subsequently announced policies to decarbonise rail transport in the UK by 2040 the risks identified of policies being implemented to remove diesel are already being realised in some regions. Follow the link to view the webinar (free registration required). 

Ricardo heavy duty hydrogen power train webinar title slide
Key topics and takeaways:

  • Ricardo hydrogen engine and fuel cell system capability
  • Total cost of ownership analysis for commercial vehicles and off-highway machines
  • Virtual product development process for combustion system development reducing project cost and duration
  • Multiple fuel cell stack optimisation using 0D and 1D plant modelling to improve the overall efficiency of the system by 15%
  • Advanced control using the Ricardo fuel cell control model with electronic horizon

If you'd like to hear more, or to discuss a potential project in this area then please get in touch via our contact form.