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Cummins, one of the world’s largest producers of diesel engines, is shifting toward a cleaner fuel source. While the maker of some of the best diesel engines in the world and the engines used in all Ram 2500 and 3500 diesel-powered pickups isn’t going electric, it is exploring hydrogen.

What makes Cummins think hydrogen is the future?

This 2022 Ram 3500 HD Cummins Diesel pulls a travel trailer. Could this power come from a hydrogen engine in the future?
2022 Ram 3500 HD Cummins Diesel | Ram

Even though refueling stations providing diesel and gasoline are plentiful, the poor mpg and harmful emissions have moved the automotive world toward electric power. Unfortunately, there are some instances when an electric motor won’t get the job done.

Because Cummins builds engines for everything from school buses to motor homes, it needs to think bigger. If you consider a semi-truck pulling a heavy load across the country, you know time is of the essence. Recharging electric batteries takes too much time to be effective, which is where hydrogen comes in.

A recent hydrogen engine revealed by Cummins

Cummins 15-Liter Hydrogen Engine
Cummins 15-Liter Hydrogen Engine | Cummins

Jalopnik reported that Cummins revealed a new 15-liter hydrogen-powered engine at an event in California last month. This massive engine uses the company’s new “fuel-agnostic platform,” which allows for various engines using different fuels, including liquid hydrogen. The goal is to have this large engine in production by 2027, along with a smaller 6.7-liter version that could become the next engine used in the heavy-duty Ram trucks we admire.

Hydrogen power shows up in chase boats

An America’s Cup team has experimented with a Chase Boat powered by a hydrogen fuel cell engine. This engine, developed by Toyota, is an incredible step forward and shows how this fuel can be an excellent alternative to electricity, gasoline, or diesel.

The powertrain developed gave the team the necessary power to achieve higher speeds on the water, sparking the continued development of hydrogen powertrains.

Ford is another automaker developing hydrogen fuel cell powertrains to give us an alternative fuel for future transportation desires.

Can a car engine run on hydrogen?

The 2022 Hyundai Nexo is one of the only hydrogen-powered vehicles in the market today
2022 Hyundai Nexo | Hyundai

Cummins tells us there are two different types of hydrogen engines. These two engines prove that cars can run on this fuel but could have multiple applications. A hydrogen internal combustion engine operates like a traditional gasoline engine. A fuel cell hydrogen engine generates electricity for the power needed to run the vehicle.

Future Cummins hydrogen engines could be of both varieties. The internal combustion models tend to be most efficient under high loads, while the fuel cell hydrogen models work best for smaller loads. This means our passenger vehicles could have a fuel cell Cummins hydrogen engine, while the semi-truck or school bus you see might have an internal combustion version.

What cars have hydrogen engines?

Hydrogen power hasn’t caught on as a mainstream fuel source. There are only two mainstream models currently using hydrogen: the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo. Hyundai has offered a hydrogen-powered Santa Fe in the past as well.

Globally, the infrastructure to support hydrogen-powered vehicles is virtually nonexistent. Because a hydrogen-powered vehicle only expels water vapor as its exhaust, the lack of support for this fuel is baffling.

Is hydrogen a better fuel source than electricity for transportation?

A 2022 Toyota Mirai XLE hydrogen fuel cell sedan in Supersonic Red
2022 Toyota Mirai XLE in Supersonic Red | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The most plentiful element in the universe is hydrogen, but we don’t have fields that can be mined. If hydrogen refueled stations were as plentiful as locations providing gasoline and diesel, electric vehicles might never make it into the automotive market. A hydrogen vehicle refuels at the same rate as a gasoline vehicle, which is much faster than an EV. Hydrogen and EV-powered vehicles tend to offer similar driving ranges.

Hydrogen might not catch on and replace the move toward EVs, but large diesel engine producers, such as Cummins, are working on hydrogen engines. If successful for over-the-road trucking and other large transportation applications, hydrogen could be the fuel used by commercial vehicles in the future.

Next, check out the new Mazda diesel engine that we won’t see in America, or watch Scotty Kilmer explain the benefits of a hydrogen engine in the video below:

This article was updated on 8/19/2022.


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