How smart is the worksite of the future ?

Worksite of the future

The worksite of the future will see site managers using digital technologies as integrated components to drive business results, with the Internet-of-Things and machine learning becoming more than just buzz words.

In this post we’ll explore how connectivity combined with intelligent site planning and the right equipment can improve productivity, while reducing costs and improving safety. We’ll also explore why adoption of the latest technologies has been slower than expected and what the potential challenges site managers and industry leaders need to consider when designing their own infrastructure.

As the world transforms into a truly digital economy, strong and reliable connectivity will be paramount for the site managers to benefit from the many opportunities available to them. The good news is with Wi-Fi, cellular and satellite offerings, there are no shortage of options when it comes to selecting internet sources or telematics providers. Whether it’s flying drones, remote diagnostics, virtual service events, autonomous operators or smart charging for electric equipment. Once connectivity is prioritized as a requirement of the worksite, a new way of working becomes possible.

For example, imagine the productivity you could achieve if equipment never failed while on a job because its engines were being monitored remotely through cloud computing systems that can detect issues early and send software updates (similar to your smart phone) to fix problems. Or, automatically trigger replacement part orders online so preventative maintenance could occur with minimal steps or time lag.

Alternatively, what if you knew exactly how much work you could get done with an electric machine before its battery needed charging and then you could plan your charges during downtime to not only save on utility costs but also ensure availability during regular work shifts? Similarly, how much risk could you mitigate if you utilized autonomous operators who directed equipment from computer rooms instead of working on site? The common thread here for these examples is connectivity.

With advanced hardware and sensors now being increasingly added to construction equipment- machines are in fact collecting data and learning the way sites work. These anonymous insights apply machine learning to help manufacturers design more and more advanced technologies. However, here within lies the heart of the challenge. Let’s consider a simple example where a construction site has 12-pieces of equipment from 3 OEM brands.

Each brand could have its own telematics solution installed and ready, meaning that the site manager may need to monitor their mixed fleet through 3 different web portals. This could negate a notable amount of the expected efficiency gains. For machines without factory installed telematics solutions, external service providers can visit sites and add aftermarket hardware to upgrade equipment. This solution must of course pay for itself in the long run.

And then of course these new sets of technology do require new skills. This could mean upskilling current labor or hiring new talent. Data management will be one of the key skills, without it the amount of information could prove overwhelming.

While challenges do exist, Cummins is building open and agnostic technology solutions that are connectable with a range of telematics service providers and customer specific systems. As our powertrains are found in a wide variety of construction equipment, we are developing a suite of Connected Solutions™ to help support customers over the life of their equipment.

Learn more and join the conversation

Join the conversation with #Cummins on your social platforms or learn more about our current and future product solutions. We also have Cummins experts around the world happy to answer your questions. Find your nearest Cummins professional by visiting or calling 1-800-Cummins.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Hydrogen internal combustion engines and hydrogen fuel cells

Regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from motor vehicles are tightening around the world. With this, both hydrogen engines  and hydrogen fuel cells are receiving an increasing interest. 

Given medium and heavy-duty trucks are a major source of CO2 emissions, the transportation sector’s journey to destination zero features both technologies.

As more truck makers join the ranks of auto companies developing CO2-free or CO2-neutral alternative to gasoline and diesel vehicles, let’s look at the similarities and differences between hydrogen engines and fuel cells.

Hydrogen engines and fuel cells: Similarities and differences in how they work?

Both hydrogen internal combustion engines and hydrogen fuel cells can power vehicles while being CO2-free. Both technologies rely on hydrogen as an energy carrier.

Hydrogen engines burn hydrogen in an internal combustion engine, in just the same way gasoline is used in an engine. Hydrogen internal combustion engines (Hydrogen ICE) are nearly identical to traditional spark-ignition engines. You can read more about how hydrogen engines work if interested.

Fuel cell hydrogen vehicles (FCEVs) generate electricity from hydrogen in a device known as a fuel cell, and use that electricity in an electric motor much like an electric vehicle. 

Hydrogen engines and fuel cells: Complementary use-cases

Hydrogen engines and hydrogen fuel cells offer complementary use cases. 

Internal combustion engines tend to be most efficient under high load—which is to say, when they work harder. FCEVs, in contrast, are most efficient at lower loads. You can read more examples of hydrogen engines in mobility and transportation. These range from heavy-duty trucking to construction.

So, for heavy trucks that tend to spend most of their time hauling the biggest load they can pull, internal combustion engines are usually the ideal and efficient choice. On the other hand, vehicles that frequently operate without any load—tow trucks or concrete mixer trucks, for example, may be more efficient with a fuel cell. Fuel cell electric vehicles can also capture energy through regenerative braking in very transient duty cycles, improving their overall efficiency.  

Hydrogen engines can also operate as standalone powertrain solutions and handle transient response demand without the need for a battery pack. Fuel cells combined with battery packs can also accomplish the same.

Hydrogen engines and fuel cells: Similarities in emissions

Hydrogen engines and hydrogen fuel cells also have similar emissions profiles.

FCEVs, actually, produce no emissions at all besides water vapor. This is a very attractive feature for vehicles operating in closed spaces or spaces with limited ventilation. 

Hydrogen engines release near zero, trace amounts of CO2 (from ambient air and lubrication oil), but can produce nitrogen oxides, or NOx. As a result, they are not ideal for indoor use and require exhaust aftertreatments to reduce NOx emissions.

Hydrogen engines and fuel cells: Hydrogen fuel considerations

Yes, both hydrogen engines and fuel cells use hydrogen fuel; but there is more to this story.

Hydrogen engines often are able to operate with lower grade hydrogen. This becomes handy for specific use cases. For example, you might have a site where hydrogen can be produced on site using steam methane reforming and carbon capture and storing (CCS). This hydrogen then can be used in hydrogen engines without the need for purification. 

The hydrogen engine’s robustness to impurities is also handy for a transportation industry where the transition to high quality green hydrogen will take time.

Hydrogen engines and fuel cells: Varying maturity levels

Finally, hydrogen engines and hydrogen fuel cell technologies have different levels of maturity. 

Internal combustion engines have been universally used for decades and are supported by extensive service networks. Rugged engines that can operate in dusty environments or that can be subjected to heavy vibrations are available in all sizes and configurations.

From the perspective of vehicle manufacturers and fleet operators, the switch to hydrogen engine drivetrains involves familiar parts and technology. Risk-averse end-users will find comfort in the tried-and-tested, reliable nature of internal combustion engines.

So it is not really the case that FCEVs and hydrogen ICEs are competing with one another. On the contrary, the development of one supports that of the other, since both drive the development of a common hydrogen production, transportation, and distribution infrastructure. Both also involve the same vehicle storage tanks. They are complementary technologies that are part of reducing vehicle and transportation emissions towards destination zero, now.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Examples of hydrogen engines in mobility and transportation

For a long time, it looked like cars with hydrogen engines  or fuel cells would one day take over the roads and the transportation sector. Fuel cell hydrogen cars release no harmful emissions of any kind, have a long range, and can be refueled in minutes. In theory they sound like a great way to decarbonize the transportation sector. In practice, hydrogen cars are facing stiff competition from plug-in battery electric vehicles. It has been a running joke in the industry that hydrogen cars are always ten years away.  

So, is this the end for the use of hydrogen in motor vehicles? Far from it. 

Battery electric technology is great for personal vehicles and selected commercial vehicles in the transportation sector. Meanwhile, the transportation sector includes vehicles with a diverse set of duty cycles and applications. Some of these vehicles and equipment are currently not prioritized for battery electric technology applications. This means hydrogen technology is going to be a part of destination zero carbon emissions for many commercial vehicle operators.

There are two ways to power a motor vehicle using hydrogen. These are hydrogen internal combustion engines (Hydrogen ICE) and hydrogen fuel cells. The first uses hydrogen to fuel an internal combustion engine. The other uses a fuel cell in combination with electric motors and a battery.

Crucially, hydrogen engine drivetrains are mechanically very similar to traditional drivetrains. Hydrogen engine vehicles rely almost entirely on tried and tested components. This means that for risk-averse operators who drive vehicles in harsh environments or who want predictable maintenance costs, they may be the solution of choice. Below are some applications where hydrogen engines are a great option. 

Hydrogen engines in construction vehicles and equipment

The construction sector is another source of CO2 emissions. In urban areas, the use of heavy construction equipment can also contribute to lower air quality. This should not be surprising, since a large excavator can consume more than five gallons of diesel fuel per hour. A battery pack large enough to allow such a powerful machine to operate for an entire day’s work would need to be quite large. It would also be very expensive. 

Meanwhile, compressed hydrogen brings greater energy density. This would allow an excavator to operate with acceptable sized fuel tanks; those that are larger than the ones on traditional diesel machinery yet manageable. These hydrogen engines also eliminate the extended work interruption to recharge batteries.

Hydrogen engines in heavy-duty trucks

Semi-trailer trucks are another category of vehicles where battery electric technology may not be the ultimate decarbonization solution yet.

As with some of the construction equipment, the issue with battery technology comes down to range, reduced cargo space, and charging time. Several manufacturers are developing battery electric semis, but most advertise a range of 150 to 300 miles. This makes them best suited for short- and medium-range haul. 

In long-haul transportation, drivers would have to stop for one or two hours to recharge, every three to five hours. Some makers advertise longer ranges, but greater battery capacity can only be achieved at greater cost and with the loss of valuable cargo space. 

Hydrogen trucks, in contrast, have a range and refueling time comparable to diesel  and natural gas—without any particulate matter or greenhouse gas emissions. 

Are hydrogen engines viable without a dense refueling network?   

Another reason why all these hydrogen applications are especially promising is that they can be viable without the existence of a dense hydrogen fueling network. 

Trucking companies, for example, can plot an itinerary ahead of time using a small number of fueling stations placed along fixed routes, without the need to hunt for fueling stations in the wild. Trucking companies can also install onsite hydrogen dispensing at their regional hubs or distribution centers as well as install electrolyzers to produce hydrogen onsite.

Construction sites are another good example for the use of hydrogen engines without a dense refueling network. These sites are stationary, and they are usually functional for months to years where on-site hydrogen storage is more feasible. In the case of a remote construction area, even the possibility of local hydrogen production can be evaluated. Excavators on these sites operate in challenging environmental conditions under aggressive duty cycles. These hard to electrify applications combined with opportunity to store or produce hydrogen locally make hydrogen engines an option for construction vehicles.

Beyond this immediate viability, hydrogen engines also drive the progress in the hydrogen economy and infrastructure.  

If these have excited you, don’t forget to read about how hydrogen engines work and their role in reducing vehicle and transportation emissions towards destination zero.

As these commercial applications become mainstream, hydrogen fueling networks will appear to serve them. Conceivably, these limited networks could then be used by personal hydrogen cars. Hydrogen engines are just around the corner, so hydrogen cars may have a shot at revival within less than ten years after all.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

How do hydrogen engines work?

Hydrogen is an increasingly popular energy carrier. It can be readily produced from water using renewable electricity, and it burns without any greenhouse gas emissions. It is colorless, odorless, and does not spill. It’s no wonder there is a great interest in hydrogen engines as a part of destination zero.

How hydrogen fuel can power a vehicle?

Using hydrogen to power an engine or motor is more straight forward than you might think. There are two ways to do this. 

The first way involves a device known as a fuel cell. The fuel cell converts hydrogen to electricity, which then powers the vehicle’s electric motors, just like in any electric vehicle. 

The other way is hydrogen engines; internal combustion engines that burn hydrogen as the fuel. Either method has advantages and drawbacks. However, the latter, using internal combustion engines is a more familiar technology.

In fact, one of the very first internal combustion engines ran on a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen—and featured an electric spark ignition mechanism. Its inventor, a former Swiss artillery officer named François Isaac de Rivaz, used it to build a vehicle that could carry heavy loads over short distances. 

Diesel engine vs. natural gas engine vs. hydrogen engine

Today, if you saw a modern internal combustion engine designed to run on hydrogen, you might not know that it’s not meant for natural gas. Four-stroke hydrogen internal combustion engines (Hydrogen ICE) operate on the same cycle as regular natural gas engines and have almost the same components—engine block, crank, cylinder heads, ignition system, installation parts, and so on. 

Diesel engines and hydrogen engines also share similar components. These include an engine block, crank, and installation parts such as mounts and flywheel housings. 

At Cummins Inc., we are leveraging our existing platforms and expertise in spark ignited technology to build hydrogen engines. Our hydrogen engine is a spark ignited engine variant with similar engine hardware to natural gas and gasoline engines.

This high commonality among engine components introduces scale advantages. This economies of scale is critical in the transportation sector’s journey to lower emissions. It reduces costs and delivers the needed reliability.

There are also differences between hydrogen engines and other spark ignited engines such as natural gas and gasoline engines.

For example, differences in the physical properties of hydrogen impacts how fuel and air are metered and injected. Pre-ignition is a greater problem for hydrogen engines than for gasoline engines, because hydrogen is much easier to ignite. Direct injection is one way to overcome pre-ignition issues. Direct injection systems introduce fuel–hydrogen, in this case –directly into the cylinders, rather than into the intake manifold or ports. If the injection takes place at a time when the inlet valve is closed, backfire conditions are avoided. Another solution is to completely design the combustion system for hydrogen.  

Another consideration is the formation of nitrogen oxides, or NOx. NOx is an atmospheric pollutant which can cause poor air quality and lead to the brown-orange haze that forms above some large cities in the summer. 

When hydrogen burns in the presence of lots of oxygen, very little NOx is formed. However, when hydrogen burns in the presence of a small amount of oxygen, a large amount of NOx can be created. As a result, hydrogen engines are typically tuned to run on an air to fuel ratio of 2 :1. This means that twice as much air is needed to burn all the fuel that is injected into the cylinders. Hydrogen engines often require an exhaust treatment system to remove this excess NOx. 

Can hydrogen engines work in medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses?

Hydrogen internal combustion engines are appealing to vehicle makers for two primary reasons. First is  their similarity with traditional internal combustion engines. Second is hydrogen’s ability to power vehicles as a zero-carbon fuel.

An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can build vehicles with hydrogen engines that are very similar to existing internal combustion engines. Most of the vehicle’s other components and software remain the same. 

Hydrogen engines are also attractive to end users. Hydrogen engines look, sound and work like the internal combustion engines that every mechanic in the world is used to. Their reliability and durability are equal to that of diesel engines. 

Cummins is currently testing hydrogen engines to mitigate the risks of hydrogen embrittlement and erosion. We will share our findings as our tests progress. 

Commercial fleet operators can purchase vehicles featuring hydrogen engines without the anxiety that might come from investing in a technology that some perceive as a science experiment.

Examples of hydrogen engines in the mobility and transportation sectors also go beyond medium and heavy-duty trucking. You can find users evaluating hydrogen engines in marine, construction,  and beyond.

So, you might not know immediately that a vehicle is designed for hydrogen if you saw its engine, but if you saw its fuel tank, you would know right away. Storing hydrogen onboard motor vehicles is  safe and becoming more economical and practical. Cummins has recently formed a joint venture with NPROXX, a leader in hydrogen storage and transportation for hydrogen storage tanks. This joint venture will provide customers with hydrogen and compressed natural gas storage products for both on-highway and rail applications. 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Making a splash with hydrogen internal combustion engines

The search for power solutions to decarbonize commercial vehicles and off-highway equipment took an exciting turn last summer with an announcement from Cummins

Cummins and Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Development

Our hydrogen-fueled engine development program is one of our latest steps to advance zero-carbon technology. Customers are taking notice and so are governments

Indeed, judging by some reactions, it's almost as if Cummins has just reinvented the internal combustion engine (ICE).

Test Cell - Cummins Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)
Test Cell - Cummins Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)

Of course, product development is in the early days, but the truth is, it looks very promising and I am excited about the capability of a hydrogen engine to virtually eliminate CO2 emissions.

According to the EPA's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Model (GEM) for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Compliance, a model year 2027 Class 8 sleeper cab semi, powered by a hydrogen ICE would generate 144 fewer metric tons of CO2 per year versus its diesel-powered counterpart.
That adds up to saving 1,437 metric tons of CO2 over the life of that one vehicle —that’s equal to nearly 575 full size hot air balloons filled with CO2 in the sky. Can you imagine what a fleet of hydrogen ICE vehicles can do if that is just one vehicle?

Why hydrogen ICEs?

Hydrogen ICEs will provide a low cost zero-carbon solution for high load factor and high utilization applications where battery-electric solutions cannot meet the operational requirements and fuel cells are not yet economically viable.
A hydrogen ICE fits in today's trucks, works with today's transmissions and integrates seamlessly into the industry's existing service networks and practices. End users are responding positively to the potential for a hydrogen engine because of the zero-carbon fuel and its familiar technology. 

Likewise, launching the hydrogen engine also benefits other paths to reach a zero-carbon future, such as hydrogen fuel cells. By creating a viable use case and demand for hydrogen in the near term, we can accelerate hydrogen infrastructure build-out and increase scale production of vehicle storage tanks. Both advances are necessary for the widespread adoption of fuel cell powertrains.

How will the hydrogen ICE make it to market?

Built on decades of experience and as a major player in natural gas engines worldwide, you can say that we at Cummins have an inherent advantage in getting this program off the ground.   

There is significant reuse of appropriate engine components, which drives economies of scale while also providing reliability and durability equal to diesel.

But it's also important to note that with decades of experience in spark-ignited engines comes the knowledge that we will harness to bring differentiating technology to the forefront. 

For example, our hydrogen-fueled engine development program plans to utilize all-new engine platforms that offer flexible overhead cam systems, improved cooling, and reduced friction which aims to achieve a more efficient and higher power density product. 

These platforms are being developed to avoid the performance limitations and other compromises associated with converting today's diesel or natural gas engines over to hydrogen fuel.  

In addition, we have designed an advanced optimized combustion chamber for fuel mixing, charge motion, and turbulence generation that we believe is critical for fast hydrogen combustion to maximize power density and efficiency. It’s also important to note that this combustion system will synergize with our next-generation high power density, high-efficiency natural gas engines. 

Early testing on these and other advanced solutions are quickly validating our expectations.

What's next for Hydrogen ICE development?

The next step in our hydrogen engine innovation is to match the performance capability of the powertrain with the applications most struggling to find viable zero-carbon solutions in the near term. 

Hydrogen ICEs will create a new and attractive solution where high load factors and high equipment utilization are critical to customers. With a wave of excitement and possibilities on the horizon, the hydrogen-fueled engine development program has the potential to expand the customers' powertrain of choice. 

Taking on significant challenges is nothing new to Cummins. We have been doing just that for over a century, and innovation is in our DNA. 

Over the last 25 years alone, we have achieved remarkable reductions in engines' criteria NOx and particulate matter (PM) emissions. Improvements in fuel efficiency have also been impressive and a corresponding decrease in CO2 emissions.

Now, over the next few years, our hydrogen-fueled engine development program will take on the challenge of delivering zero-carbon fuel while retaining all the performance attributes our customers have come to expect from Cummins. 

Add this to our already diverse set of technologies available, the path towards the mass adoption of more environmentally sustainable solutions is within reach.

Srikanth Padmanabhan

Srikanth Padmanabhan is Vice President and President of the Engine Business, the largest of Cummins’ four business segments. In this role, he pushes the boundaries of customer-focused innovation to position Cummins as the leading powertrain supplier of choice, with its portfolio ranging from diesel and natural gas to hybrid and electric powertrains. Read more about Srikanth's more than 30 years at Cummins. 

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