Program aims to retrofit hydrogen ICE on Class 8 vehicle

By Becky Schultz02 December 2022

The joint industry program, managed by Southwest Research Institute, aims to design, build and demonstrate a working vehicle powered by a hydrogen internal combustion engine. (Photo: Southwest Research Institute)

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, has initiated a joint industry program (JIP) that seeks to retrofit a hydrogen engine in a Class 8 heavy-duty vehicle. The aim of the project is to “create a working demonstration of current technology’s capabilities for decarbonization and achieving zero- or near-zero emissions of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants,” said Dr. Terry Alger, executive director of SwRI’s Sustainable Energy and Mobility Directorate.

According to Alger, SwRI believes that an internal combustion engine fueled by sustainably sourced hydrogen in combination with other clean emissions technologies can provide low emissions that are competitive with batteries and fuel cells.

“Battery-electric and fuel cell-powered vehicles tend to take up the majority of the conversations surrounding zero-emission vehicle technologies,” Alger said. “Through this program, we are working with industry to ensure that current technology, like internal combustion engines, are not left out of the decarbonization conversations by federal and state regulators. We have a significant number of industry members and donors sharing hardware to show the potential of H2-ICE technology.”

The JIP aims to design and build a working vehicle powered by an SwRI-managed hydrogen internal combustion engine (H2-ICE). An onboard emissions measurement system will be used to demonstrate whether the engine can power a heavy-duty vehicle that produces near-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and ultra-low emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter.

Parts for the vehicle’s construction will be supplied by JIP members. SwRI will integrate its ultra-low NOX aftertreatment technology, which was originally developed to help diesel engines meet California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulatory standards for target date 2027. The JIP will be managed by SwRI with majority approval of a project advisory committee. Arising intellectual property will be owned by SwRI and shared with funding members.

Once completed, the H2-ICE vehicle will be tested to ensure it aligns with standards in the Phase III Greenhouse Gas Rules to be set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2023 and the 2027 CARB regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, as well as anticipated EURO VII rules for heavy-duty vehicles.

The targeted completion date is December 2023 with vehicle demonstrations planned throughout 2024.

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