Yes, electric vehicles are largely on the way. There are more EVs than ever before, and there stands to be even more as we move towards the end of the decade. There’s simply too much money that automakers are spending to make it happen for it to not take place. That said, electric vehicles are not a catch-all solution for everybody. They carry higher sticker prices because of their rare earth metal content, are known to have more expensive out-of-warranty powertrain repair costs in relation to comparative engine-powered products, and can have mixed charging times in climates featuring below-freezing temperatures. These headwinds have also forced the auto industry to innovate beyond the BEV, and more and more, the solutions appear to revolve around hydrogen power. Take engine maker Cummins, for example. With an engine in development that runs on the H2 molecule, we could soon see a hydrogen-powered Ram HD truck with a Cummins powertrain.
Cummins, for those that don’t know, is a supplier of diesel engines for several commercial truck makers, as well as the line of Ram Heavy Duty trucks made by Stellantis. Cummins also makes power generators, and has even announced a 500 megawatt electrolyzer facility in Fridley, Minnesota to produce hydrogen gas, and is powered by renewable energy.
Cummins Hydrogen Engine: Details
In a previous article, we discussed Cummins Inc.’s announcement that it was producing a hydrogen version of its popular B6.7 engine. The B6.7 engine is a base for the ever-so-popular 6.7-liter Cummins I-6 turbodiesel found under the hood of the current Ram Heavy Duty truck lineup. Thus, making this new hydrogen engine a prime candidate for the next-generation Ram Heavy Duty trucks.
Cummins has recently teased the new B6.7H for its medium-duty and heavy-duty engine offerings. According to Mopar Insiders, a recent video from Cummins showed how it can convert a medium-duty delivery truck to operate on zero-carbon hydrogen fuel powered by the new B6.7H hydrogen internal combustion engine (H2-ICE) without compromising performance, cargo capacity, or payload. The H2-ICE proof of concept was revealed at the 2022 IAA expo in Germany, which attracted significant attention. The H2-ICE features a 700-bar pressure high-capacity hydrogen storage system, giving the vehicle a range of 310 miles.
The Cummins engine offers a seamless substitution for a diesel engine, as the 6.7-liter hydrogen motor is rated at 290 horsepower and 886 lb-ft of torque in its medium-duty truck configuration. In addition, the B6.7H was easily integrated with existing diesel driveline components highlighting the ability of H2-ICE to offer a zero-carbon solution for a lower cost than most BEVs. Not to mention the convenience of refueling.
BEVs continue to be powered by energy from fossil fuels; meanwhile, zero-carbon hydrogen fuel can be produced by electrolysis using electricity from solar panels and wind turbines, enabling actual CO2-free driving. Also, hydrogen fuels release no particulate matter, carbon monoxide, or volatile organic compounds.
Though, it’s important to note that hydrogen engines do have the potential to release some NOx. This atmospheric pollutant can contribute to the haze observed above large cities during summer. Aftertreatment systems are used to eliminate most NOx emissions, similar to what is used in most modern diesel vehicles.
According to Cummins, if the U.S. were to convert its commercial medium and heavy-duty trucks to hydrogen, it would eliminate about 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, which also adds credence to the idea that it’s not so much about the car that’s in one’s driveway, but how environmentally taxing it is to ship everything as opposed to localizing it.
Since most hydrogen engines are based on modern and reliable diesel and natural gas ICE motors, vehicle manufacturers are familiar with the technology, as are suppliers and fleet companies. For the most part, hydrogen engines can be applied in many current vehicle design and production processes, which is significant and genuinely proves how hydrogen power could be the true future of automobiles over BEVs.
We may see a hydrogen-powered Cummins Ram HD work its way into production sometime by 2027 if its infrastructure is put in place by then.