A new report from the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) has highlighted the potential of liquid air to help the road transport industry reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases.

In Europe, UK-based Dearman Engine Company is at the forefront of pioneering work on developing liquid air (liquid nitrogen) as a practical and realistic way to reduce emissions from commercial transport vehicles.

ERTRAC is the European technology platform for the road transport industry and is seeking to deliver the accelerated development of sustainable, integrated transport solutions.

ERTRAC has more than 50 members, representing all the elements of the road transport system including the transport industry, European trade associations, EU Member States, local authorities and the European Commission.

Called ‘Energy Carriers for Powertrains’, the ERTRAC report seeks to establish a roadmap for how the industrialised countries of Europe and elsewhere can reduce the production of greenhouse gases in the road transport sector by up to 80% by 2050 when compared to 1990 levels. The European Commission has committed itself to this goal.

The comprehensive report, which reviews all potential fuel choices, highlights liquid air as, “an adaptable energy vector which can be created and consumed using traditional mechanical engineering technologies, stored safely in un-pressurized containers, and made from a free abundant raw material.”

The report adds that liquid air can be used in many applications to improve or replace existing transport solutions and deployed at electricity grid scale for balancing the supply and demand from inherently intermittent renewable energy generation.

Further, the report adds that liquid air is ‘unique in the family of potential energy vectors as it provides an energy sink rather than energy source’.

“We know that liquid air’s potential to help change road transport emissions is vast and are confident that our planned refrigerated truck trials will attract global interest leading to the beginnings of a revolution in this specialised area…”

Toby Peters, Dearman Engine Company

Returning liquid air to ambient temperatures and pressure will absorb 0.77 MJ or 213 Whr/kg, competitive with the best high energy density Li-ion batteries. The supply temperature of -196°C is a key enabler for harvesting low grade waste heat sources (around 100°C) such as combustion engine cooling systems.

Dearman Engine Company is understood to be currently bench testing a small engine using liquid air at Imperial College London. Trials will soon begin (of this engine) on an articulated refrigerated trailer unit at the MIRA test facility, where the engine will replace the unit normally used to power the refrigeration system.

Toby Peters, CEO of Dearman Engine Company, commented, “We are delighted that the liquid air technology we are pioneering has been recognised by such a prestigious and visionary body as ERTRAC.”

“We know that liquid air’s potential to help change road transport emissions is vast and are confident that our planned refrigerated truck trials will attract global interest leading to the beginnings of a revolution in this specialised area, followed by the wider application of the technology, forecasted in the ERTRAC report.”