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'Liquid air' engine commercial vehicle demo secures funding

04 September 2013

A consortium  has won an IDP8 grant from the Technology Strategy Board to build and test a liquid air engine fitted in a commercial vehicle.

A view of the Dearman engine (photo reproduced courtesy of Dearman Engine Company)
A view of the Dearman engine (photo reproduced courtesy of Dearman Engine Company)

The project will demonstrate the Dearman Engine - an innovative heat engine that uses liquid nitrogen as a 'fuel' - on a refrigerated truck providing zero-emission cooling and power during 2014.

An Industrial Advisory Board representing fleet operators will advise the consortium partners (comprising engine developer, Dearman Engine Company (DEC), MIRA, Air Products and Loughborough University) and review the benefits of the technology to their fleets.

Cooling currently accounts for up to 20% of a refrigerated vehicle’s fuel consumption.  With a commercial engine likely to cost approx. £3,000, independent research has shown that the technology has the potential of a payback in 12 months of operation through savings in fuel; and delivers a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions from the refrigeration cycle.

With global sales of refrigerated transport equipment experiencing double-digit growth, and predicted to exceed £6bn annually by 2015, this investment places the UK at the forefront of innovation in this important market. 

Says Dearman Founding Director and CEO, Toby Peters, “This Technology Strategy Board supported project means that the Dearman Engine solution will be in a vehicle next year and is on track to be tested at MIRA before the end of 2014 prior to full on-road field trials.”

Looking to broader applications of the technology, Peters added: “By validating all the key systems of the Dearman Engine in a mobile environment, alongside re-fuelling and other vehicle management procedures, this project will support further applications for the technology such as waste heat recovery from internal combustion engines and zero-emission propulsion.”

Says Colin Garner, Professor of Applied Thermodynamics, Loughborough University, “The COOL-E LCV IDP8 Technology Strategy Board supported project is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the on-vehicle potential of this exciting liquid air technology.

"The University’s School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering has an international reputation for being at the forefront of technological innovation and for maintaining extensive links with industry, and we are delighted to be the academic partner for this exciting project.”

The concept of 'liquid air' sprang to prominence in May 2013 with a ground-breaking report from the Centre for Low Carbon Futures, Liquid air in the energy and transport systems: Opportunities for industry and innovation in the UK, launched at the Royal Academy of Engineering. The report found that liquid air could reduce diesel consumption in buses or freight vehicles by 25% using a liquid air / diesel hybrid which DEC aims to demonstrate later next year.

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.”

Added Toby Peters, “MIRA has put together a strong consortium of respected partners who have confidence in the technology and are helping us develop it. It’s a big tick endorsing an exciting UK technology that has a major role to play in delivering low carbon transport.
“Air Products are excited to be part of the IDP8 project title COOL-E, contributing with cryogenic engineering in transport technologies.

As a worldwide supplier of industrial gases, equipment and technology, winning in energy, environmental and emerging markets with unrivalled innovation are part of our Company’s strategy, so a perfect reason for Air Products to join this project,” said Jon Trembley, Technology Manager, Cryogenic Applications, Global Merchant Gases, Air Products.

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