Hydrogen already boasts significant ranges between refuel times in comparison to battery-electric vehicles, however with fuel cell development often seen as expensive, hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engines cut out significant costs associated with this.

To learn more about its popularity in the market and why among our readers at H2 View it is gaining such popularity, H2 View spoke exclusively with Jim Nebergall, General Manager of Hydrogen Engines at Cummins.

H2 View (H2V): Thanks for giving H2 View your time. To start with, could explain why Cummins believes hydrogen ICEs are such a trending topic at the moment?

 Jim Nebergall (JN): At Cummins, we are focused on reaching net-zero emissions from our products by 2050, and we have nearer term goals to help our efforts to decarbonise – we call this work Destination Zero.

We need decarbonisation solutions for the mobility industry, and hydrogen internal combustion engines are a practical option. Hydrogen engines are a breakthrough technology essential to reaching Destination Zero. They are low cost, highly efficient, perform like diesel in aggressive duty cycles, are robust to hydrogen fuel impurities, are durable in extreme operating environments, and are versatile.

Hydrogen engines also have lower installation complexity because the technology integrates well into existing chassis using existing vehicles accessories and driveline components. The low initial cost also provides a significant TCO advantage amongst zero-carbon fuelled powertrains.

Because of the practical nature of the technology, hydrogen ICE can help accelerate decarbonisation making it a very relevant topic.

H2V: With a huge portion of the hydrogen mobility industry, including yourselves, channelling efforts into fuel cell battery powered systems, where do you think ICEs can fit into the market?

JN: There won’t be one winner in this race. The industry needs multiple solutions to meet the needs of all customers and all applications considering the variation in duty cycles and operating environments, both on- and off-highway. Both hydrogen ICE and fuel cell electric powertrains will play a role in decarbonisation, and we need them both.

The industry needs to ensure customers have options so that we’re not betting the planet’s future on a single technology. Having hydrogen ICE alongside hydrogen fuel cell battery power systems ensures competition exists, drives innovation, and the environment and customer will ultimately benefit.

Hydrogen ICE is a global solution that has a place in many markets. It’s well suited for demanding applications, with high asset utilisation, as well as applications operating in severe environments.

H2V: What is the main barrier facing the mass scale roll out of hydrogen ICEs?

JN: Cummins knows how to design industrial grade engines. That’s what we do. Access to green hydrogen is the main barrier to be overcome, both from a green hydrogen manufacturing and distribution perspective. There is strong consensus that hydrogen is a viable fuel for the mobility industry.

Support for hydrogen fuel can be seen in the investments occurring in green hydrogen production and infrastructure globally, including the US Government, which has allocated $9.5B to clean hydrogen projects. Because of this support for hydrogen as a viable fuel in the US, and similar recognition in many nations, Cummins is optimistic about overcoming this barrier.

H2V: How are Cummins trying to overcome efficiency issues with hydrogen ICEs?

JN: Hydrogen ICE is actually extremely efficient and has a very compelling TCO vs other zero-carbon fuelled solutions. With Cummins spark-ignited technology and fuel agnostic engine platforms, we can achieve brake thermal efficiency (BTE) that exceeds today’s natural gas engine efficiency.

With further refinement, diesel like efficiency may also be achievable. Efficiency can be further enhanced by combining hydrogen ICE in a hybrid powertrain and through the use of advanced features like Cummins ADEPT system.

H2V: What do you think the next major advancement in hydrogen ICE technology going to be?

JN: With Cummins in-house technology expertise in combustion, air handling, fuel systems, turbochargers, filtration, electronics, aftertreatment systems, and hybrid technology there is a lot more to come on hydrogen ICE.

North American Hydrogen Summit

H2 View is taking its events platform to America’s original clean hydrogen hub of California. Together with the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP), we will stage our North American Hydrogen Summit in San Francisco on July 14-15.

As our summit theme Building Bridges: Hydrogen hubs and investment suggests, the event will explore the $8bn of funding announced to create at least four regional hydrogen hubs in the US. These hubs will turbo-charge the nation’s progress toward heavy trucking and industrial sectors that run without producing carbon pollution – and they may just provide the path forward to a hydrogen-fuelled future.

With California and Texas vying to be America’s hydrogen capital today, where are the hubs of tomorrow? Further still, what can other states, and countries, learn from California’s success story? And how can we build bridges to a successful flow of international investment?

Our early bird offer tickets are $1,000, for a limited time only. If you are a member of the CaFCP, be sure to grab your ticket at a discounted rate with a code that can be provided to you by the events team.

Full information about this event including attendance and sponsorship packages can be found here.