Professor Sam Akehurst discusses hydrogen combustion and fuel cells in Engine & Powertrain Technology International
24th March, 2022
IAAPS Deputy Academic Director Professor Sam Akehurst has been prominently featured in the March 2022 issue of Engine Powertrain Technology International, the leading global industry title for powertrain engineers, providing his expertise in the field of hydrogen for two flagship articles.
The first feature covers hydrogen combustion and examines the opportunities and ideal conditions for hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engines (H2 ICE) and related benefits, including low development costs and decreasing hydrogen prices, as a viable and competitive mid-term solution to emissions reduction in vehicles. Optimising performance, however, is not without challenges due to the unstable properties of hydrogen, as Professor Akehurst points out in the article: “An H2 ICE can run in very lean conditions with lots of excess air, giving very cool and efficient combustion, and in parallel, very low engine-out emissions. Hydrogen is also a gaseous fuel, so it mixes very quickly; a lot of the mixture preparation challenges of spraying liquid fuel into air are mitigated,” he says, adding: “It also burns very quickly, giving an ideal thermodynamic cycle, but this can be quite challenging because it can cause pressure rises in combustion systems. Hydrogen embrittlement can also occur, and it cannot interact catalytically.”
In a separate feature, Professor Sam Akehurst also discusses hydrogen fuel cell technology and whether Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) can be a sustainable alternative to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). Sharing his views on the question ‘Will BEV tech block FCEV progress’, he says: “It seems as though BEVs have raced ahead of hydrogen fuel cell technology, with a number of OEMs, including Audi, for example, devoting themselves to an electric-only future. However, battery-electric progress could prove mutually beneficial for FCEVs and BEVs.
I see no reason why FCEV and BEV technologies shouldn’t co-exist together. There’s an infrastructure requirement for both that relies on green electricity, but I don’t see why one should prevent the other.
If further developed, parked and grid-connected, hydrogen FCEVs have the potential to allow a transition to a balanced, 100% renewable energy system. On average, cars are used for driving less than 10% of the time, suggesting that the fuel cells in the car could be used over 90% of the time to send surplus energy to the grid and relieve pressure.”