Blog by Dr. Brad Stroia, Stanadyne Chief Technology Officer
In late September, Stanadyne Chief Technology Officer Dr. Brad Stroia attended the Society of Automotive Engineers’ North American International Powertrain Conference, where important future propulsion and green mobility topics were discussed. In this blog post, Dr. Stroia shares his thoughts on the viability of one of the conference’s hot topics – hydrogen.
The transportation industry’s top propulsion decision makers and opinion leaders gathered -in person for the first time in two years – in Chicago at the North American International Powertrain Conference (NAIPC) on September 15-17. The three-day program’s driving topic of discussion where the opportunities and challenges of achieving net carbon neutral transportation technologies by 2050.
Much of the conference dialogue involved electrification as the overarching strategy for clean propulsion. Improving the efficiency of conventional powertrains for renewable fuel use, especially internal combustion engines (ICE), was also acknowledged as a viable path. One of the most interesting and enlightening topics for me at this year’s conference was using hydrogen as a source of green propulsion energy.
A quick look in the rearview mirror shows us what powered modern society’s major technology achievements.
- We can start with the mainly steam-driven industrial revolution;
- Which is followed by the electrification age, which included the early adoption of electric vehicles;
- Then the fossil-fueled age of the internal combustion engine;
- The space age was launched by hydrogen;
- The transistor ushered in the computer age;
- Information technology feeds the digital age; and now,
- We are seeking ways to power a new age of green propulsion.
As part of this new propulsion age, I believe the time for hydrogen to be used as a transportation energy source has arrived and will become more prevalent as time progresses.
The use of hydrogen as a direct energy source for ICEs and fuel cells is racing down the road to carbon neutral and net-zero vehicle emission propulsion. There currently is a tremendous amount of research and development going on. For example, companies like BMW, GM, Great Wall Motor, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, and Toyota are continuing their development of hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicles, with several already available. These potential propulsion options provide consumers with an alternative to the battery electric vehicles for those who may struggle with the issues of home charging, regularly travel far distances (range anxiety), and desire quick refueling (time anxiety).
Some critics of using hydrogen as a passenger vehicle fuel cite the technology as being too expensive and inefficient for today’s consumer market. However, commercial vehicle companies, like Daimler, Navistar, Nikola, and Volvo, are investing in the technology to bring fuel-cell vehicles to market at a price point where adoption will significantly improve carbon neutrality.
Look for the first application to be long-haul trucks, which are perfect early adopters of hydrogen. Fuel cell vehicles essentially only emit water, and their storage tanks have the same refilling times as most current liquid fuels. And as the internal combustion engine is a pathway to fuel cell technology, the hydrogen ICE and fuel cell is an easy transition to future propulsion systems needed for applications like heavy duty trucks.
How is Stanadyne poised to take on future propulsion needs? We are perfectly positioned to provide the propulsion system technologies required to further increase internal combustion engine efficiency, as well as optimize and enable the application of low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels for the future. In addition to liquid fuel systems, we are developing gaseous fuel delivery systems enabling the use of hydrogen as an ICE fuel, as well as the conversion of hydrogen into electricity to power fuel cell vehicle propulsion. Based on our experience with compressed natural gas, we are researching high-pressure hydrogen injector and delivery solutions, including innovative hydrogen storage systems. Our almost 70 years of providing innovative fuel delivery systems gives us the solid and foundational knowledge needed to meet next-generation engines’ demanding and varied operational conditions.
Today, and continuing into the near-term future, the transportation industry will remain heavily dependent on the internal combustion engine. It is highly unlikely the ICE will disappear anytime soon. Society will continue to enjoy its energy freedom and the flexibility of how, when, and the duration of utilization. This is exactly where hydrogen can bridge the gap between current carbon-based fuels and electric vehicles. It helps us be smarter on how we use energy in the future by using solutions that can be sustainable for decades.
So, on the next sunny day, take a moment to feel the warmth of the sun. That sunshine has been fueled by hydrogen for a very long time, and will continue to power our planet for a long time to come.