Mahle and Liebherr to develop hydrogen-fueled heavy-duty engines

In News2 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 15, 2021

Mahle Powertrain, the development service provider of automotive supplier Mahle, is supporting Liebherr Machines Bulle SA in its research aimed at developing hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines.

The work involves the use of Mahle’s prechamber jet ignition system. Engine tests have shown that by using this technology, the mixture of hydrogen and air can be ignited and burned at a high compression ratio, which makes the combustion process very efficient and stable.

According to Mahle, this paves the way for hydrogen generated in climate-neutral processes to be used in heavy-duty and off-road applications, such as excavators, track vehicles, and wheeled loaders.

“The use of hydrogen as a combustion fuel has the potential to make many heavy-duty and off-road applications climate-neutral quickly,” said Peter Wieske, director, corporate advanced engineering at Mahle.

“A large number of studies in recent decades have shown that hydrogen can be used in internal combustion engines without any problems.”

In order to achieve stable operation with a high compression ratio whilst avoiding engine knock and pre-ignition, hydrogen engines must be operated with a large amount of excess air.

The energy from a conventional spark plug is not enough to ignite such a mixture. Mahle Jet Ignition solves the problem by burning a small amount of an ignitable mixture in a prechamber cylinder. The resulting gas plasma is passed through small openings into the main combustion chamber and, due to its high energy content, rapidly and evenly ignites the main gas mixture. Tests with H966 and H964 engines from Liebherr have delivered excellent results in terms of combustion speed, performance, and emissions.

“The expertise of Liebherr’s engineering teams in off-highway engine combustion and research on alternative fuels has been critical in this project,” said Bouzid Seba, head of predevelopment at Liebherr Machines Bulle.

He said Liebherr has an open approach to all technologies, whereby the company explores various methods of energy conversion and the fuels that are most suited to them.