For the Canadian group Westport Fuel Systems, also known by its acronym WFS, hydrogen is not just a futuristic opportunity, but a real business. The group has been operating in the sustainable energy sector for many years, with a turnover of several million euros.
The Vancouver-based company is listed on both the TSX in Toronto and the NASDAQ in New York and has strong ties to Italy. The three establishments specialise in LPG and CNG mobility technologies and are located in Cherasco (Cuneo), Brescia and Albinea (Reggio Emilia).
WFS operates in the hydrogen components market, but is also developing an innovative technology in this sector for H2-powered heavy vehicles, better known as HPDI – High Pressure Direct Injection. The company believes strongly in the development of the internal combustion engine powered by this promising energy carrier.
In fact, it is a technology already used today on CNG and LNG trucks – for example by the Volvo group – but with H2. This method is even more efficient than using LNG or methane, and CO2 emissions are close to zero.
Advantages of the HPDI application
Applying HPDI technology to hydrogen also offers further advantages:
In addition to having a TCO, total cost of ownership, comparable to that of fuel cell systems, it also allows the exploitation of a solution, that of the internal combustion engine, which is mature and proven and therefore preserves the value chain, investments, professional skills and related jobs.
With diesel-derived propulsion systems using a small fraction of diesel to ignite the H2, in the absence of a nearby H2 refueling facility, these systems can use ‘traditional’ fuel for short service trips. When powered by hydrogen, they provide the same range, power and torque as a classic diesel truck.
An ambitious goal
Westport is working on the development of this solution, which is still in the experimental phase, in its Vancouver R&D centre, also through development programmes conducted with important partners such as Scania, with the aim of achieving commercial application by 2027-2028.
In the meantime, WFS remains open to collaborations, talking to other major European truck manufacturers who might be interested in experimenting with this technology.
Another study, this time based on numerical simulations and carried out in partnership with AVL, focused on the TCO of these vehicles, giving results that allow encouraging forecasts for the future.
For Westport, therefore, hydrogen is also a significant part of its current business, thanks to the production of storage components such as valves and pressure reducers, which are made in the Brescia establishment, but sold almost entirely abroad.
For WFS, therefore, H2 is already a reality, which promises to become increasingly significant within the budget of the Canadian group. According to Marco Seimandi, Vice President Sales & Marketing Westport Fuel Systems, within a decade hydrogen-powered trucks will be a widespread reality. For the vice-president, Italy has the skills and the technological pipeline to develop this market and he stresses the need for attention and support from the state.