A consortium led by the Dearman Engine Company, a highly-efficient liquid nitrogen or air (LiN) engine, has secured funding close to £2m from the Technology Strategy Board to provide support for low-carbon vehicle initiatives.

There is a pressing need for more cost-effective technology to improve the efficiency of urban medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles and buses. Electric hybrid systems are seen by some as a solution, but costs remain high, leading to long payback periods (10-12 years for a bus).

However, this project will deliver a production-feasible waste-heat recovery system for urban commercial vehicles, which offers life-cycle CO2 savings of up to 40%, fuel savings of 25% - with the potential of up to almost 50% - and potential payback in less than three years. The project uses the Dearman Engine, a highly efficient liquid nitrogen or air (LiN) engine that harvests low-grade heat sources and, in this configuration, is most effective in urban duty cycles, working with the internal combustion engine (ICE) as a hybrid powertrain.

Using the Dearman Engine allows efficient use of the waste heat, leading not only to greater economy, but also offering the potential for improved air quality. The technology uses readily-available materials with low embedded carbon, and operates with commercially-available liquid nitrogen, which is readily available and is frequently produced using off-peak electricity, with great potential for storing wrong-time renewables.

The project will cost £3.25m, £1.9m of which has come from the Technology Strategy Board grant. Dearman is working with MIRA, Air Products, Productiv, The Manufacturing Technology Centre, CENEX and TRL, bringing together expertise in the Dearman system, industrial gases, ICEs, vehicle systems, legislation and standards and manufacturing. The consortium will deliver an on-vehicle demonstration of the hybrid system over the next two years as well as engage the potential supply, demand and legislative chains. The project creates significant UK advantage in a future global urban medium/heavy duty truck and bus market of more than three million units per year.

Toby Peters, founder and CEO of the Dearman Engine Company, said, “All vehicle manufacturers are under pressure to develop cleaner, cheaper vehicles, but producing alternative technologies can be an expensive, and not always efficient, process.”

“This grant from the Technology Strategy Board to support the engine’s use in a heat-recovery system is welcome validation of the important role this technology can play in creating more efficient medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and we look forward to working with our partners on this ground-breaking programme.”