Bi-fuel conversion brings hydrogen fuel to existing ICE technology

This project involved modifying the engine of a Ford Transit-based vehicle to operate using compressed hydrogen gas fuel – but it can also operate from its existing petrol fuelled system without any adverse effects.

The specially built demonstration vehicle is designed to show that hydrogen as a fuel – and the associated equipment – are practical and efficient in a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. The concept is expected to accelerate the availability of CO2-free, hydrogen-fuelled commercial vehicles operating in Britain.

The conversion features Ford’s 2.3-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, to which we have added a belt-driven supercharger with intercooler. This provides additional combustion air under pressure when the fuel mode switch is selected to hydrogen only. The engine retains its conventional spark ignition system.

The hydrogen fuel is currently designed to be stored in three tanks, underslung below the vehicle floor. This installation provides a usable storage capacity for 4.5 kilograms of hydrogen at 350bar (5000psi) and gives an estimated range between 95 miles for the urban cycle and 135 miles for open highway running. Additional capacity can be added if required. Importantly, the location and configuration of the tanks allows the retention of the volume and load height of the base vehicle – with no intrusion or interference within the load space.

We have recently established a collaboration agreement with ITM Power plc to provide the breakthrough refuelling solution by enabling vehicle operators to generate their own hydrogen fuel. Using a patented electrolyser, due to enter production at ITM’s special facility in Sheffield later this year, it is possible to make hydrogen fuel wherever there is a source of electricity and water.

The advances in electrolysis technology that ITM has achieved elegantly address the hydrogen infrastructure issue by using the already developed electricity and water distribution network. The electrolyser can produce hydrogen from water and any source of electricity including off-peak or renewable energy – electricity generated by wind, wave or solar power. Unlike petrol or diesel, when hydrogen burns, it releases no CO2, merely water vapour.