Ricardo Ai Aerial Tractor 006

Maintaining machine operating effectiveness while reducing the global carbon footprint

15 Nov 2019

The off-highway sector is facing an unprecedented challenge: how to maintain machine operating effectiveness while reflecting global society’s imperative to reduce emissions and the global carbon footprint.

Emissions legislation is a mandatory requirement for the off-highway sector. While there are no current plans in the EU and US beyond existing legislation the next stage of emissions legislation for trucks is under discussion and would be expected to flow to off-highway featuring: NOx reduction, new pollutants, increase in use compliance requirements, and fuel neutrality.

The sector cannot expect to remain exempt from carbon dioxide regulations, and regulation for off-highway should again be expected to follow from those proposed for on-highway (30% reduction by 2030 in Europe). Defining CO2 legislation is, however, challenging for off-highway due to the very wide range of machines and duty cycles.

In addition, rather than national legislation, it is likely that future requirements will be driven by customer requirements such as corporate sustainability and carbon dioxide strategies as well as the perennial requirements for productivity, the total cost of ownership and reliability; plus local city needs, such as local emissions policy, local or zero pollutant emissions, and noise restrictions.

In summary the key questions are:

  • How fast will legislation, my business’s sustainability strategy and customer demands move?
  • What future fuels will be available, when and how much will they cost?
  • Which powertrain solutions deliver the required benefits?
  • How do these fit with (and enable) future machine improvements?
  • What should I make and what should I buy?

Ricardo is working closely with manufacturers who are competing in the global market and are focusing on these challenges. We are their trusted technology partner to help them select the right technologies which will provide the right balance of life-cycle cost, robustness, emissions and effectiveness, and integrate the technologies into vehicles while meeting the range of sustainability challenges.

We are also helping customers with machine efficiency improvements. For off-highway machines, efficiency is about accomplishing the same task whilst consuming less resources, energy, and time and reducing any machine downtime. Efficiency gains can come through engine and powertrain refinement, as well as optimisation of the power delivery systems. Understanding and being able to simulate the machine systems and operational requirements enables Ricardo to effectively engineer solutions.

Here are four of the key areas in which we are helping our off-highway sector customers:

  1. Future emissions

    We have and are delivering Stage V production calibrations, and to help speed up this work, we have been employing virtual calibration techniques. From our on-highway work, which includes engagement with the legislative authorities, we have a good understanding of where the legislation is likely to head and have developed the measurement systems required to measure smaller particulates, for example.

    We have also patented our Kineta aftertreatment system that enables a significant reduction in methane emissions (a potent Greenhouse Gas) from lean burn gas engines that are inherently more efficient and therefore generally produce less carbon dioxide than stoichiometric gas engines.

  2. Alternative fuels

    Fuel price will change significantly when power to gas or liquid fuels become available or are mandated. The long-term focus for off-highway should probably be hydrogen or full electrification for the majority of applications. In the interim, the likely approach is a system of technologies comprising hybrid, natural and bio-gas, improved efficiency diesel and gasoline – and all with improved machine efficiency and best total cost of ownership.

    Compressed or liquid natural gas is a quick win in terms of CO2 reduction. Giving the same performance as diesel, Ricardo recently demonstrated a 15% to 18% CO2 reduction on a Tank To Wheel base and 10 to 15% CO2 reduction when considering the Well To Wheel emissions, accounting also for the CO2 emission due to extraction, refining and transport of the fuel.

    A further step towards decarbonization of off-highway machines is achieved by using bio-methane. Ricardo has been working with the APC UK funded Low Carbon Tractor (LoCT) project supported by CNH Industrial on the engineering of the world’s first production natural/bio gas powered tractor. Launched at Agritechnica 2019, CNH claims the benefits to be 30% lower running costs, 80% reduction in overall pollutant emissions and reduction in CO2 of between 10% (natural gas) and 100% (biomethane from energy crops and farm waste). It supports circular farming in which farmers can use waste product from their land to power tractors and machines.

  3. Off-highway electrification

    The hybridisation of off-highway machines can enable OEMs to improve productivity in terms of better transient response and having lower energy losses at hydraulic drivers - by decoupling them from the engine. Often the engine can be downsized and a fuel consumption saving of 10% is possible.

    Driven by concerns about air quality, local authority bans on internal combustion engines and low emission zones are already in place or being considered in city centres. Demand is therefore increasing for fully electric machines.

    Ricardo has been working on designing and delivering cost-effective electrification solutions including a combine harvester feasibility study; a tractor electrification strategy; and an electrified vehicle for an airport ground support equipment company.

  4. Fuel cells

    Despite uncertainty about the future cost of batteries, fuel cells and the future price of hydrogen, our work has shown that fuel cell technology is a viable technical solution especially for long haul commercial vehicles when considering sustainable solution to meet the 2030 CO2 emissions targets.

    Similarly, in the off-highway sector, fuel cells will offer better range and total cost of ownership then fully battery solutions for high power applications similar to a long haul truck when and where zero emissions become a requirement.

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