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Using Liquid Air for Clean Fuel

TruckLiquid air could potentially be a source of clean vehicle power for commercial trucks in the UK by 2020, according to a report by the Liquid Air Energy Network.

The report projects that a liquid-air powered British fleet of 36,000 vehicles by 2025 could save more than 1 billion liters of diesel fuel, 1.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (well-to-wheel), and a net of £113 million ($193 million) in investment costs.

In addition, the report points out that a projected fleet of just 13,000 liquid air refrigerated trailers would reduce mono-nitrogen oxide emissions by the same amount as taking 80,000 Euro 6 trucks or 1.2 million Euro 6 diesel cars off the road.

Although liquid air is not currently in mass production, liquid nitrogen, which has similar properties, could easily be used as a temporary substitute for early liquid air vehicles while waiting for production of liquid air to ramp up to projected demand levels.

Although several engine concepts in this area are being developed, report authors decided to focus on the two closest to commercial deployment: the zero-emissions “power and cooling” engine for truck and trailer refrigeration, and the diesel-liquid air “heat hybrid” engine for buses, delivery trucks and other commercial vehicles.

The Dearman Engine Company is developing both applications, and its refrigeration engine begins on-vehicle testing this year and is scheduled for commercial production in 2016.

According to the report, liquid air is now being recognized as a potentially powerful new energy source, and the concept has received approximately £20 million ($34 million) in government grants, including £9 million ($15.4 million) to develop liquid air energy storage for storing grid electricity, £6 million ($10 million) for a new Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage at Birmingham University and £5 million ($8.5 million) to develop liquid air vehicle engines.

The report also says liquid air “cooling and power” refrigerated trailers could repay their investment in as little as three months.

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