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Ricardo advancing with two novel heavy-duty vehicle technologies: cryogenic split-cycle engine and microwave fuel reforming

The concept of the Ricardo Split-Cycle engine. The recuperated engine uses isothermal compression via cryogenic injection to enable significant exhaust to compressed gas heat transfer. Source: Neville Jackson. Click to enlarge.

Ricardo is advancing its work with two novel technologies to improve the efficiency of heavy-duty goods vehicles: a cryogenic split-cycle engine “CryoPower” (earlier post), and a low-carbon waste-heat powered microwave fuel reformer “HeatWave II”.

Heavy duty vehicles, such as long haul trucks, represent a significant challenge in terms of the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. An essential element of the transportation mix of modern industrialized society, they are inherently less amenable to the type of electrification and hybridization strategies that are already contributing to reduced carbon emissions and potential long-term sustainability for the light vehicle sector.

CryoPower. Rather than merely refine the existing four-stroke diesel, the Ricardo cryogenic split-cycle engine concept seeks to redefine the engine and its combustion process through the use of a recuperated split-cycle with isothermal compression. (In an isothermal process, the temperature is constant.)

A pilot simulation study of the Ricardo cryogenic split-cycle engine concept has predicted a thermal efficiency of 60%—significantly more fuel efficient than current engine technology.

Based on a concept investigated by Ricardo for power generation purposes in the 1990s (the IsoEngine), the split-cycle engine for heavy vehicle use was the subject of the TSB supported “CoolR” feasibility project, commenced in 2011, in which Ricardo partnered with the University of Brighton.

The Ricardo cryogenic split-cycle engine concept incorporates the following:

  • LN2 is produced using the engine (efficiency of generation is a key parameter).

  • Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) is injected during compression to control temperature rise and increase mass.

  • Recuperator to transfer heat from exhaust gas to compressed air.

In the new CryoPower engine project, the partners will be joined by high-temperature heat exchanger specialist Hiflux Ltd, as well as a confidential advisory panel drawn from the heavy duty engines and vehicles sector. During the work of this new project—which aims to investigate, analyze and de-risk the crucial aspects of the Ricardo CryoPower engine concept—the partners will focus on system definition, technical risks and route to market, combustion system component development and thermal analysis, and recuperator development.

At the end of the project, a clear development pathway for the concept will thus be established whereby key risks and opportunities have been established and further work towards the ultimate commercialization of the concept can be planned.

The need for fundamentally new powertrain solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of heavy duty road transportation is widely accepted, not least because the electrification approaches currently being demonstrated for passenger cars are inappropriate for this scale of vehicle.

By fundamentally readdressing the underlying thermodynamics of the internal combustion engine in a manner not seen for many decades, we believe that the Ricardo CryoPower split-cycle cryogenic injection combustion concept offers the prospect of very significant improvements in thermal efficiency and hence reduced carbon dioxide emissions. With the success of the simulation-led feasibility study commenced in 2011, which itself builds upon our previous work in power generation sector, we are now very pleased to be able to progress this research with Technology Strategy Board support. This will help to provide a further step towards the commercialization of an extremely promising and game-changing technology for the economically crucial heavy vehicle sector.

—Ricardo chief technology and innovation officer Professor Neville Jackson

The CryoPower engine project is supported by funding from the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board as part of the “Low Carbon Vehicles Proof of Concept IDP8” funding call, with balancing contributions from the project partners.

HeatWave II. HeatWave is based on technology developed by QinetiQ for aerospace APU applications, to assess its development potential as a low carbon vehicle technology. It combines an innovative fuel reforming concept that is applicable to the global on-highway transport market, generating syngas from diesel fuel to improve overall engine efficiency, while using waste engine heat to offset part of the reformer’s power requirement.

This novel system architecture deploys technological building blocks which were shown in the original Ricardo-led feasibility project, commenced in 2011, to provide a fuel economy benefit of around 5% in heavy-duty vehicles and at a competitive cost in comparison with other fuel saving technologies.

Ricardo and QinetiQ will be joined by the University of Brighton in the next phase of their Technology Strategy Board-supported HeatWave project.

The HeatWave II project announced will produce the next level of system validation to deliver a proof of concept demonstration of the technology. To deliver this validation, the partners will focus upon: development of the reformer process in order to demonstrate it at a suitable scale; validation of the effect of reformate syngas on engine performance through engine testing, and development of vehicle systems.

Following the very promising results of our original HeatWave feasibility study, Ricardo is pleased to be leading the HeatWave II project announced today in which we will join with QinetiQ and the University of Brighton to further research this exciting fuel saving technology. The microwave-based reformation of diesel fuel, harnessing heat that would otherwise be wasted, is a potentially attractive and cost-competitive means of improving the fuel consumption of heavy duty vehicles and hence reducing the carbon footprint of road-based long haul logistics.Neville Jackson.

The HeatWave II project is supported by funding from the UK’s innovation agency the Technology Strategy Board, with balancing contributions from the project partners.



The snake oil businessman is back. This Neville guy promoted the 2S/4S years ago without disclosing the amount of air used for every mg of fuel burned and how much air compression needed to get the air into the cylinder during the 2 stroke operation. He is back with another snake oil in the form of cryogenic based engine. I can bet he will never disclose the amount of energy needed to cool the nitrogen and the amount of heat penalty involved during the operation. Gosh, someone needs to teach Ricardo basic physics and energy balance before Ricardo cons potential investors and partners again

Thomas Pedersen

Liquid nitrogen in order to save energy. It smells funny...

Ball-park cost of liquid nitrogen, for huge efficient plants: 600 Wh/kg

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