A new report published today by the Liquid Air Energy Network, the Centre for Low Carbon Futures, and the University of Birmingham provides stark numbers about the potential benefits of using liquid air-powered refrigeration vehicles.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions cause around 29,000 premature deaths in Britain each year, at a cost to the economy of £20bn.

While strict targets on diesel engines are reducing pollution drastically, truck refrigeration units are often powered by unregulated secondary diesel engines.

Today’s report 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 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.

“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…”

Toby Peters, Dearman Engine Company

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 £115m 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 £713m, 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, while all of Britain’s major cities are within commercial delivery distance of the existing liquid nitrogen distribution network and refuelling equipment for fleet vehicles could be easily installed at existing depots.


The Dearman engine will begin field trials in summer 2014, a project led by MIRA with funding from the Technology Strategy Board.

A consortium led by the Dearman Engine Company was awarded close to £2m 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.

Toby Peters, Chief Executive of the Dearman Engine Company, commented, “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.”