Future powertrain tech: expect broad diversity and specialist solutions

Could the liquid nitrogen engine one day find itself at the table with other zero-emission technologies? Very possibly in certain applications, says Dearman. By Xavier Boucherat

When considering the future of powertrains, Nick Owen believes that environmental and resource constraints will create a far more complicated picture than the one we see today. The industry, he says, has become used to the idea of combustible fuels as a solution for everything, including applications where their use is inefficient.

Such luxuries might not be available in future, and as of yet, there is no panacea to take their place. “There’s a good reason why a niche technology like hydraulic hybrid powertrains have proven popular on refuse trucks,” he says. “I would liken the way forward to Darwin’s observations on the Galapagos Islands, where you have fewer resources, and as a result you get specialist solutions evolving. We see ourselves as a part of that complex future.”

Owen is Chief Technology Officer for Dearman, a company formed in 2011 which has developed a zero-emissions liquid nitrogen engine. In essence, the engine works in much the same way as a steam engine, albeit with liquid nitrogen which has an extremely low …