ULEMCo, a Liverpool-based company that converts commercial vehicles to run on hydrogen fuel, has unveiled a converted Volvo FH16 truck which it claims is the first zero-emission combustion engine in the world.

With the Mega Low Emissions (MLE) truck, ULEMCo, or the Ultra Low Emission Mileage Company, intends to demonstrate how hydrogen fuel can be used to decarbonise heavy good vehicles efficiently and cost-effectively. The MLE truck uses hydrogen to power the vehicle using a conventional combustion engine rather than through fuel cells and an electric motor. As a result, the engine produces none of the usual emissions from hydrocarbon-based fuels, such as unburnt fuel and carbon monoxide, and the process can be applied to a range of trucks which currently have combustion engines, without the trucks needing to be fully electrified.

“We are hugely excited about the potential for hydrogen fuel as a route to faster achievement of zero carbon emission in commercial vehicles”, said ULEMCo CEO Amanda Lyne.

“With this MLE demonstrator, co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, we are showing that 100% hydrogen fuel in combustion engines is a practical and cost effective option. It sits well alongside the hydrogen dual-fuel conversions that we have already implemented commercially.”

The MLE vehicle will be the first truck powered exclusively by hydrogen to operate in the UK. It has 300 horsepower and carried 17kg of hydrogen as fuel, providing an unloaded range of 300km.

Lyne told Road Traffic Technology that, “If designed from scratch the range would be greater, as it is dependent on how much hydrogen we can fit on board.”

The only additional hardware would be larger stores of hydrogen, so there is a smaller reduction in payload than is experienced with other low-emission approaches.

The company has converted diesel vehicles to ones powered by hydrogen dual-fuel since 2010, and its technology has been used in vans, light commercial vehicles, heavy good vehicles and marine vehicles.