Duramax Engines Are Being Converted To Hydrogen Power

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With this conversion, the Duramax can cater to countries with stricter emission laws.

The 6.6-liter V8 Duramax currently being made by General Motors can be found in flagship trucks such as the Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD. With a power output of 445 horsepower and 910 lb-ft of torque, it's a preferred engine for those wanting maximum capability in a truck but, in regions where strict emission laws are well on the rise such as Europe and China, this powertrain is not viable.

Punch Group is looking to change this with an innovation that will allow the cast-iron block to accommodate hydrogen as a means of fuel. Speaking to Automotive News Europe on the matter is CEO Guido Dumarey who was been an engineer for the company since 1986. The group currently owns several automotive-related businesses with an annual revenue of more than $570 million.

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Dumarey claims to specialize in purchasing businesses that are struggling at a discounted rate. These businesses are then developed and then sold as part of an initial public offering. Two key components of Punch Group's current portfolio are the discarded General Motors units in Europe. These consist of a transmission plant in Strasbourg, France, and a propulsion engineering center in Turin.

The transmission plant was renamed Punch Powerglide and started developing automatic transmissions for BMW, ZF, and other Chinese, Russian, and Indian automakers. After six years of negotiations, the group convinced GM to sell its engine plant which was once the carmaker's global center of competence for diesels.

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Using all the knowledge and experience available to him and Punch Group, Dumarey explains that he has the intention to transform diesel engines into CO2-free, hydrogen-fuel powerplants. With a proposed launch date of 2024, he explains that the motivation behind this is relatively simple. Europe and China's mandating for zero emissions of any type of transportation will impact the turbodiesel engine's longevity.

Battery-powered vehicles are not the only viable option, particularly when it comes to heavy trucks and light commercial vehicles. These products need to carry a large payload which affects range. In an EV, this means installing larger and heavier batteries which are seen as counterintuitive. Thus, Punch Group believes that converting the current Duramax into a hydrogen-fueled engine is a better way to offer CO2-free mobility in this segment.

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Dumarey says that the biggest challenge surrounding this conversion is the fact that hydrogen burns seven times faster than diesel. Because of this, the group will have to find a way to decrease the temperature of the combustion chamber. Water injection is a proven technology that can be used but the negative side effect is that this creates corrosion.

Lubrication is another issue because the engine tends to be dry, which means that spray lubrication is the only solution. The engine itself just needs a selection of minor changes to be made to the cylinder head while the injection and control systems also need to be reworked to handle hydrogen. Dumarey adds that diesel is no more difficult to convert to hydrogen than a gasoline block.

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With a planned market introduction date of 2024, Dumarey details that power output ranges for its hydrogen engines will vary from 109 to 544 horsepower. The Duramax will be the flagship of its range but entry-level options will be available in a 2.0-liter four-cylinder followed by a 3.0-liter V6. There is an ability to make a smaller 1.5-liter three-cylinder but this is not in its near-term plans.

When asked about infrastructure, Dumarey states that Europe should start implementing a significant amount of hydrogen stations on major highways as the EU Green Deal proposes there should be hydrogen refueling stations every 150 km on Trans-European Transport Network corridors by 2030. In the USA, hydrogen has also been on a relatively slow uptake with only 48 retail stations currently available to the public.

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Source Credits: Automotive News Europe

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