H2 ICE is ideal for heavy-duty use, providing fuel efficiency
Cummins India is the country’s leading manufacturer of diesel and natural gas engines. Nitin Jirafe, Engine Business Leader, Cummins India, speaks on advantages of using hydrogen internal combustion engines over concventional internal combustion engines.

Cummins inaugurated its Jamshedpur plant. What are the advantages, apart from emissions, of using Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (H2ICE) over conventional internal combustion engines powered by fossil fuels? Also how does infrastructure for hydrogen refueling differ from traditional fuel or electric vehicle charging?
Tata Cummins (TCPL) Green Energy Solutions (TCPL GES) recently inaugurated a new manufacturing facility in India. The state-of-art facility is equipped to produce Hydrogen-based Internal Combustion Engines (H2 ICE) for medium and heavy commercial vehicles, as well as other low- to zero-emission technology products. Globally, Cummins has invested across the range of zero-emission technologies, and we are making steady progress to introduce them into India.

The inauguration of this facility reaffirms company’s commitment to a cleaner and more sustainable future for India. With zero carbon emissions and high energy density, hydrogen emerges as an important fuel for decarbonisation and high energy consumption heavy commercial vehicle applications.

While H2 ICE emits zero carbon, it also significantly reduces the emission of other pollutants such as NOx and PM, enabling compliance with the latest emission standards. The latest technology on H2 ICE enables it to provide diesel like performance, which is critical for acceptance of any new technology. A significant advantage of H2 ICE powered by green hydrogen, over conventional fuel, is that the fuel will be produced locally within India, using renewable solar energy, with India having the advantage of being a sunshine country. This will help India to reduce imports of fossil fuels and become Atmanirbhar for its energy requirements.

Hydrogen, being a gaseous fuel in its natural form, has refueling infrastructure very similar to CNG but with higher operating pressure. Refueling/charging time is critical for commercial applications. Compared to electric vehicle charging, hydrogen refueling would be much faster (comparable to CNG). This presents a significant advantage of hydrogen over other zero emission technologies.

What are the key aspects to be focused for H2 ICE technology for its adoption at a large scale?
The adoption of any zero-emission solution for the transport sector requires three critical enablers: the availability of fuel with dispensing infrastructure, economic viability, and technology maturity.

With an aim to become Atmanirbhar in energy and to drive global Clean Energy Transition, India launched the “National Green Hydrogen Mission” last year. A key focus area of this mission is the use of Green hydrogen in industrial and transport sectors. This move by government of India will ensure the hydrogen (H2) fuel availability. The subsequent phase of the policy is expected to cover the roadmap for H2 dispensing infrastructure. This will enable the right infrastructure for H2 usage in transport sector.

Fuel prices contribute for more than 50 per cent of the total operating cost of a long-haul truck. Through interventions under National Green Hydrogen policy and production linked incentives for Electrolyser, the government is ensuring competitive fuel prices, driving economic viability of hydrogen based transportation.

With hydrogen availability and competitive prices ensured, a right hydrogen-based propulsion technology can trigger the transition. The development of H2 ICE emerges as a suitable propulsion technology, offering following advantages to trigger mass adoption:

  • Technology maturity with high level of similarity with conventional fuel engines.
  • Leverage existing ecosystem of suppliers.
  • Low complexity chassis integration, (minimal change to the drivetrain, transmission, or chassis).
  • High level of similarity with existing powertrains, ensuring minimal aftermarket service intervention.
  • H2 ICE is robust to handle hydrogen fuel impurities as compared to fuel cell.
  • Lowest initial cost among various zero-carbon fuel technologies.
  • 100 per cent hydrogen fueled thus becoming a zero-carbon emission technology.
  • What are the various technologies associated with H2 ICE?
    H2 ICE is positioned to be used for heavy duty commercial applications, offering the same required performance, power and fuel efficiency. While performance is critical for achieving high efficiency in completing tasks, fuel efficiency is crucial due to it’s significant impact on operational costs.

    There are two main technologies for H2 ICE, with key difference in the fuel injection system: port injection and direct injection. While port injection is relatively a simpler technology requiring minimal changes from existing engine platforms; direct injection is complex and involves finer tuning of the engine and the entire system.

    However, the direct injection offers significant advantages, including diesel like performance in terms of power and torque and much better fuel efficiency.

    Cummins has developed a breakthrough product with direct injection technology, where we have effectively managed the complexity of the system to deliver superior performance and thus reduce operating costs.