The world’s first liquid air engine – designed to provide the power for refrigerated trailer applications – is about to undertake full on-vehicle testing by the summer of 2014, according to Dearman Engine, the manufacturer behind the concept.
The innovative engine concept, which is being developed in the UK in partnership with MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association), Air Products, Ricardo, and a number of UK universities including Leeds, Birmingham, Loughborough and Brighton, is jointly funded by the consortium partners and the UK government.
According to Dearman Engine, the engine, which runs on liquid nitrogen, could be in production within two years. Following completion of its shakedown testing at the end of 2013 at Imperial College, London, the engine is moving into a three-month program of tests and performance mapping. The developers recently confirmed that the engine remains on track for integration and installation on a refrigerated truck providing zero-emission cooling and power by MIRA in the first half of this year, 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.”
According to Dearman Engine, the adoption of liquid air technologies in heavy-duty vehicles could reduce the UK’s diesel consumption by 1.3 billion liters and its carbon emissions by over a million tons by 2025. It could also reportedly cut emissions of carcinogenic particulate matter by 180 tons 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 IC engine cooling loop, the engine can reportedly deliver 25%+ reduction in fuel consumption for a diesel heavy-duty engine. The ability to work alongside other waste heat recovery systems is said to be an additional advantage, with further development work underway in this area.
“Liquid air offers significant potential benefits as a future energy vector, both for use in light duty propulsion and as an enabler for other promising low-carbon power train innovations, particularly waste heat harvesting,” a spokesman form Ricardo said.