Vancouver-based Westport Fuel Systems has become a member of the World Hydrogen Council, a CEO-level advisory body aiming to provide a long-term vision for the role of hydrogen technology in the energy transition.
“We see this as a really important opportunity for us to work with the rest of the ecosystem that’s growing and forming right now, to involve our technology and our products, but also support our partners’ ecosystem,” said David M. Johnson, Westport’s CEO.
Westport applied to join the council in a process that took about nine months, complete with an application and references check. But Johnson and the company were already familiar with many of its members.
The council chair is Tom Linebarger, the CEO of Columbus, Indiana’s Cummins Inc., the world’s largest independent maker of diesel engines. Linebarger and Cummins were also, up until the end of 2021, longtime partners with Westport on a joint commercial venture known as Cummins-Westport Inc., which has produced over 70,000 heavy-duty natural gas vehicle engines.
This month, Westport agreed to a share purchase agreement for its stake in the Cummins-Westport joint venture, leaving Cummins as the sole owner.
Both companies also agreed to an initial technical assessment of Westport’s HPDI 2.0 engine for potential use in Cummins’ hydrogen applications.
Westport’s HDPI 2.0 engine
According to a release, the goals of the World Hydrogen Council are to “increase visibility around the hydrogen solutions currently available” and “advocate for the important role of hydrogen technologies in helping to meet climate goals.”
For Johnson, that comes down to demonstrating the use of hydrogen in Westport’s HPDI 2.0 engine.
The high-pressure direct injection system is Westport’s heavy-duty internal combustion engine. The HPDI concept has already operated successfully in trials while running on hydrogen fuel.
Last July, Westport announced a partnership with independent automotive development company AVL and Brazilian manufacturer Tupy to produce a heavy-duty hydrogen-based HPDI. The results of the project are expected early this year.
“What we see is, in those demonstrations and developments, that we can show about 25 per cent improvement in power and torque versus the same engine running with diesel,” said Johnson.
On its website, Westport states the engine offers the same “power, under 400 HP, torque, engine braking and drivability as diesel.” It also claims that, depending on whether the engine contains geologic natural gas or renewable natural gas, the reduction in GHG emissions is between 20 and 100 per cent.
Benefits of the World Hydrogen Council
Johnson also sees the council as a pathway for increased collaboration and support among global hydrogen companies, given the nascent technology they’re all trying to move forward.
“If we fast-forward 50 years, we’ll probably all be fiercely competitive,” he said.
For now, though, a forum to exchange ideas, form partnerships and increase its voice in the marketplace is essential.
Anecdotally, he said, “no one” was talking about hydrogen internal combustion engines even as recently as a year ago. Still, with acceleration from companies like Westport and initiatives such as the council, it’s now top of mind.
Policy advocacy on green hydrogen is another goal of the council. Johnson cites the dramatic growth of LNG stations over the last decade or so as a good example of what the committee hopes to accomplish, going from “five to 15 in Northeastern Spain” to “almost 500 across the continent.”
Future of hydrogen
“We have governments around the world saying that they believe in the hydrogen economy, they want to invest in hydrocarbon (and) it’s an important part of their pathway to decarbonize the atmosphere and transportation,” said Johnson. “So coordinating and otherwise influencing governments to do the right things at the right time to build the industry in a way that can be successful, and even accelerate that growth, I think is a really important part of what the hydrogen council can do.”
The World Hydrogen Council was created in January 2017 at the World Economic Forum in Brussels, Belgium. Its 13 inaugural members were Air Liquide, Alstom, Anglo American plc, BMW, Daimler AG, ENGIE, Honda, Hyundai Motor Company, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Royal Dutch Shell, The Linde Group, Total S.A. and Toyota Motor Corporation.
The council is run by co-chairs elected by the steering members every two years. On February 2, Yoshinori Kanehana, the chairman of Kawasaki, took over from original chair Benoît Potier, CEO and chairman of Air Liquide, to run the council alongside Linebarger.
The council has over 130 member companies based in over 20 countries.
About Westport Fuel Systems
Westport is a supplier of advanced fuel delivery components and systems for clean, low-carbon fuels such as natural gas, renewable natural gas, propane and hydrogen to the global automotive industry.
Founded in 1995, it has operations in over 70 countries. Its other North American offices are in Calgary, Cambridge, Ont., and Novi, Mich.
Among the other engines the company offers is the HESI 1.0, a natural gas fuel system for medium-duty trucks, adaptable for use in light-duty automotive and non-automotive applications. The WP580 engine management system is specifically designed for spark ignited, dedicated natural gas engine applications.
Johnson was appointed CEO in January 2019. He had spent 10 years as president and CEO of Achates Power Inc.
In January, Westport appointed Phillip Hodge, the president, CEO and director of Calgary’s Pine Cliff Energy, to its board of directors.