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Liquid air engine on schedule for vehicle testing this summer

17 January 2014

The UK developed Dearman engine, which runs on liquid air (liquid nitrogen) is on track to undertake full on-vehicle testing by the summer of 2014.

The engine is the brainchild of archetypal British garage-inventor, Peter Dearman

The engine, designed to provide the power for refrigerated trailer applications, could be in production within two years and, with a network of industrial gas plants across the UK already producing liquid nitrogen, there is no infrastructure barrier to rapid deployment.

The Dearman liquid air engine - an innovative heat engine that uses liquid air as a ‘fuel’ - completed its ‘shakedown’ testing milestone at the end of 2013 at Imperial College, London, and is moving into a three-month programme of tests and performance mapping.

The developers, Dearman Engine Company, confirm that the engine remains on track for integration and installation on a vehicle by MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) in the first half of this year.

The project - in partnership with MIRA, Air Products and Loughborough University and jointly funded by the consortium partners and the UK Government (IDP8) - will demonstrate and test the Dearman Engine on a refrigerated truck providing zero-emission cooling and power during 2014, before moving to full on-road field trials.

MIRA’s Commercial Manager for Future Transport Technologies and Intelligent Mobility, Chris Reeves said: “MIRA is proud to lead a project delivering the world’s first demonstration of a liquid air engine in a commercial vehicle. Liquid air is an exciting new energy vector and has the potential to make a major contribution to the low carbon challenge facing the transport sector.”

The adoption of liquid air technologies in heavy-duty vehicles could reduce the UK’s diesel consumption by 1.3 billion litres and its carbon emissions by over a million tonnes by 2025. It could also reduce local air pollution dramatically: introducing liquid air trailer refrigeration alone would cut emissions of carcinogenic particulate matter by 180 tonnes per year, equivalent to taking 367,000 modern diesel lorries off the road.

The concept for the new technology includes a diesel hybrid application. By harnessing the low grade waste heat of the ICE cooling loop, the Dearman engine can deliver 25 percent+ reduction in fuel consumption for a diesel heavy duty engine. The ability to work alongside other waste heat recovery systems is an additional advantage. Further development work is underway in this area.

The Dearman engine can be used in a number of configurations: on its own, as the ‘prime mover’ or principal engine of a zero emissions vehicle; combined with an internal combustion engine to form a ‘heat hybrid’, or as a power-and-refrigeration unit

These are some of the preliminary findings of Liquid air on the commercial highway, a major new report from the Liquid Air Energy Network (LAEN), Centre for Low Carbon Futures (CLCF) and University of Birmingham, to be published in early March.

The report has also identified that the roll-out of liquid air vehicles could be fuelled entirely from existing spare industrial gas plant production capacity until at least 2019.

The engine is the brainchild of archetypal British garage-inventor, Peter Dearman, and subsequently developed in partnership with top UK engineering consultancy, Ricardo, and a number of leading UK Universities including Leeds, Birmingham, Loughborough and Brighton.

‘Liquid air’ as a new zero-emission energy vector sprang to national prominence in May 2013 with a ground-breaking report from the Centre for Low Carbon Futures (CLCF) entitled Liquid air in the energy and transport systems: Opportunities for industry and innovation in the UK, launched at a conference hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Contributors to the nine-month study included National Grid, Arup, Ricardo, Messer Group, Spiritus Consulting and academics from the Universities of Leeds, Birmingham, Strathclyde, Brighton, Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College.  

The CLCF report found that liquid air could reduce diesel consumption in buses or freight vehicles by 25 percent using a liquid air / diesel hybrid, while using a liquid air engine would cut emissions from refrigeration on food lorries by 80 percent.

The report also raised the possibility of zero-emission liquid air city cars filling up at road-side forecourts at a fraction of current fuel costs and with lower lifecycle vehicle emissions than either electric or hydrogen powered vehicles.

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