‘Clean up transport refrigeration’ – new report 10 June 2014

Replacing 13,000 refrigerated transport units with a liquid air solution could cut dangerous emissions by the same amount as taking 367,000 Euro 6 trucks off the road – over three times the entire UK truck fleet.

That's the key finding of 'Liquid Air on the Highway', a report published last week by the Liquid Air Energy Network, the Centre for Low Carbon Futures and the University of Birmingham, and part funded by the Technology Strategy Board.

While diesel engines are subject to strict emission targets, truck refrigeration units are often powered by unregulated secondary diesel engines, which also emit dangerous particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The report 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 two: 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. Both are being developed by the Dearman Engine Company.

According to the report, the 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 £115 million by 2025, net of all costs.

It also says the development of liquid air engines would produce significant economic, industrial and employment benefits: by 2025, Britain could be making 173,000 engines a year, generating net revenues of £713 million, and creating or maintaining more than 2,100 jobs.

Liquid air is viable as a fuel, says the report. Though it is not yet produced in commercial quantities, liquid nitrogen – which can be used in the same way – is widely available, with spare capacity until at least 2019. All of Britain's major cities are within reach of the existing liquid nitrogen distribution network, and refuelling equipment for fleets could be easily installed at depots.

David Strahan, editor of the report, says: "Nine months of work gathering data from technology developers, industrial gas experts, transport consultancies and fleet operators has presented an incredibly strong case for the financial and environmental potential of liquid air."

Laura Cork

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