Hubbard to trial liquid air refrigeration

London, UK: Hubbard Products and the Dearman Engine Company are collaborating on field trails of a Dearman engine liquid air transport refrigeration system.

The move brings commercial availability of the new technology for truck operators a step closer. Pat Maughan, managing director, Hubbard Products said: “Much of transport refrigeration is working in residential and urban areas; and this is only going to become a larger part of the market.

Hubbard to trial liquid air refrigeration“We have reviewed the Dearman technology and concluded it has enormous potential to revolutionise both the emissions and costs inherent in refrigerated road transport. We are delighted to be in on the ground floor and look forward to exploiting this new and entirely British-developed technology.”

The two companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to advance the technical, commercial and industrial development of the Dearman engine transport refrigeration system to a stage where Hubbard can manufacture, integrate and market cooling systems incorporating the Dearman engine in commercial volumes.

The first objective is to collaborate to deliver approximately five field trial prototypes of the refrigerated vehicle system to an end user in the UK, early next year. Dearman is already engaged in discussions with two major supermarkets.

Dearman will supply the engine systems and Hubbard the refrigeration equipment combined with off-vehicle systems integration elements. Hubbard would not manufacture the Dearman engine itself but will act as the system integrator contracted by the major multiples who buy it, such as supermarket chains.

Hubbard to trial liquid air refrigeration

Toby Peters

Hubbard’s membership of the Zanotti Group gives Dearman the potential for a global refrigeration system partner.

Toby Peters, chief executive, Dearman, said: “Refrigerated vehicles have a strikingly disproportionate impact on local air pollution. For example, the refrigeration unit (TRU) of an articulated trailer, which is powered by an auxiliary diesel engine, can emit far more in nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) than either the latest Euro 6 truck engine or a diesel passenger car over the course of a year.”

An analysis of regulatory standards by the consultancy E4tech shows that a TRU emits six times as much NOx and 29 times as much PM as a Euro 6 truck engine. Compared with a Euro 6 diesel passenger car, the TRU emits almost 93 times as much NOx and 165 times as much PM.

Peters says: “If just 13,000 TRUs were zero emission (the total UK fleet is about 80,000), this would be the NOx equivalent of removing either 80,000 Euro 6 lorries or 1.2 million Euro 6 diesel cars from the road. It would be the PM equivalent of retiring 367,000 Euro 6 lorries or 2.2 million Euro 6 diesel cars.”

Liquid air comes of age

A new report, Liquid Air on the Highway, launched today at the SMMT by the Liquid Air Energy Network, the Centre for Low Carbon Futures, and the University of Birmingham, analyses the financial and environmental benefits of individual liquid air vehicles and fleets, and the potential value to Britain in exports and jobs.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions cause 29,000 premature deaths in Britain each year, at a cost to the economy of £20 billion, but while strict targets on diesel engines are reducing pollution drastically, truck refrigeration units are often powered by unregulated secondary diesel engines.

A new report published today by the Liquid Air Energy Network, the Centre for Low Carbon Futures, and the University of Birmingham, has found that replacing just 13,000 refrigerated transport units with a liquid air zero-emission solution could reduce levels of dangerous PM and NOx by the same amount as taking 367,000 modern (Euro 6) trucks off the road – over three times the entire UK truck fleet. There are currently more than 80,000 refrigerated vehicles on the road and this number is growing annually; the majority in urban and residential areas.

The report, part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board and launched today at an event hosted by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), explores the potential benefits and implications of introducing liquid air engines in commercial vehicles in Britain over the next decade. While a number of engine concepts are being developed, the report focuses on the two closest to commercial deployment: as a zero-emissions ‘power and cooling’ engine for truck and trailer refrigeration and as a diesel-liquid air ‘heat hybrid’ engine for buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles. The Dearman Engine Company is developing both applications, and its refrigeration engine begins on-vehicle testing this summer, with commercial production scheduled from 2016. The report found that adoption of liquid air technologies in trucks and buses more broadly could save Britain 1.3 billion litres of diesel, over a million tonnes of carbon and £115 million by 2025, net of all costs.

As well as the benefits to the environment, the report found that the development of liquid air engines would produce substantial economic, industrial and employment benefits to UK plc. By 2025 Britain could be making 173,000 engines a year, generating net revenues of £713 million, and creating or maintaining more than 2,100 jobs.

The report also demonstrates how viable liquid air is as a potential “fuel”. Liquid air is not yet produced in commercial quantities, but liquid nitrogen, which can be used in the same way, is widely available. The roll-out of liquid air vehicles could be fuelled entirely from existing spare liquid nitrogen capacity until at least 2019. All of Britain’s major cities are within commercial delivery distance of the existing liquid nitrogen distribution network, and refueling equipment for fleet vehicles could be easily installed at operators’ existing depots.

Liquid air vehicles could achieve major cuts in local air pollution. A fleet of just 13,000 refrigerated trailers would reduce annual emissions of NOx by over 1,800 tonnes, equivalent to taking almost 80,000 Euro 6 trucks or 1.2 million Euro 6 diesel cars off the road. Annual emissions of PM would fall by 180 tonnes, equal to removing more than three times the entire UK articulated truck fleet from the road, or 2.2 million Euro 6 diesel cars.

The Dearman engine will begin field trials in summer 2014, a project led by MIRA with funding from the Technology Strategy Board. The expansion caused by heating the liquid nitrogen to boiling point drives the pistons to create shaft power, and releases only clean, cold air as exhaust. The Dearman engine is constructed almost entirely from the components of a conventional piston engine, requires little maintenance and has a light environmental impact.

A consortium led by the Dearman Engine Company was awarded close to £2 million earlier this year in the latest round of IDP10 funding from the Technology Strategy Board, in order to support the development of a heat-recovery system for buses and other urban commercial vehicles. It offers potential fuel savings of up to 50% and life-cycle CO2 savings of up to 40%.

There is a pressing need for more cost-effective technology to improve the efficiency of urban medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles and buses. While electric hybrid systems are seen as a solution, costs remain high, leading to long payback periods (10-12 years for a bus). This system uses the Dearman engine to harvest low-grade heat from the primary diesel as a hybrid powertrain. Broadly, two thirds of the energy in every litre of diesel is lost as waste heat through the radiator and exhaust. Economic modelling demonstrates payback could be as little as two years, and for the same level of subsidy the government could commission eleven times more heat hybrid buses than battery hybrids.

David Strahan, editor of the Liquid Air on the Highway report said: “Nine months of work gathering data from technology developers, industrial gas experts, transport consultancies and fleet operators has presented an incredibly strong case for the financial and environmental potential of liquid air.

“These findings couldn’t come a moment too soon. A Supreme Court decision in May of last year ruled Britain in breach of the EU Air Quality Directive. Any technology which promises such significant environmental and financial benefits deserves serious consideration.”

Toby Peters, chief executive of the Dearman Engine Company said: “Liquid air is not a silver bullet for all transport applications, but as the report today shows it can have a huge part to play in reducing emissions on our roads, as well as delivering significant revenue for UK plc. We are excited about the forthcoming on-vehicle trials and look forward to reporting on the results of these in due course.”