Industry article

Hydrogen engine innovation is exciting: but where are the skills?

Photo of Chris Nelson
Chris Nelson
Posted on 26 Jul 2023 · 7 mins read

Hydrogen engine skills are going to be in increasing demand as innovation sweeps across the sector. Find out what developments are driving this demand.

It’s certainly an exciting time in the world of green energy – particularly with the continued innovation we’re seeing in regards to hydrogen engines. But skills in renewables remain in short supply and high demand.

In our latest blog post, we delve into some of the recent green energy and engineering news before exploring the impact the growing demand is likely to have on skills and recruitment globally.

New deals on the cards

Over the course of the last month, we’ve seen a range of exciting deals announced that really showcase the investment that is going in to innovation in the hydrogen engine. At the beginning of July, the President of Yamaha announced that the brand was backing hydrogen as a clean energy source and planned to invest in developing this as a fuel source for the business’s vehicles.

Yamaha has made steps to bring more hydrogen-powered vehicles to market and even developed such an engine for Toyota’s Corolla H” Concept – which was the first ever liquid-hydrogen race car. The brand has also teamed up with other motorcycle producers (Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki) to form a technological research association dedicated to the design of hydrogen engines.

Engine manufacturer, Deutz, has also recently employed leading industry supplier, Mahle Group, to develop and supply the components for hydrogen engines, with plans to roll out new vehicles next year.

As Dr Sebastian C Schulte, Chairman of the Management Board of Deutz, explained:

“To keep the world moving, we need different technology options. What a climate-neutral excavator or combine harvester will look like remains to be seen. For engines that are constantly in use and move large loads, several options are possible. One of them is the hydrogen engine. Our successful pilot projects demonstrate the potential in the commercial vehicle sector. With Mahle, we now have a strong partner to help us enter series production of our hydrogen engines at the end of 2024.”

JCB moves to hydrogen engines

Earlier this month, we also saw JCB boss, Lord Bamford, boast of the firm’s investment in hydrogen to power its machines. What was interesting in his comments, though, was his suggestion that the reason hydrogen-powered vehicles have struggled to thrive in the UK is due to the lack of refuelling stations. But for off-road vehicles, this isn’t as much of a problem.

According to Lord Bamford, JCB’s hydrogen journey began a few years ago when the brand – as part of its plans to reach net-zero – developed a prototype hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine. In what has been described as a ‘world-first’ this move certainly caused some controversy in the engineering remit, with commentators stating that it wouldn’t be efficient, however JCB has proven these claims wrong.

In fact, as the long-standing CEO highlighted, the engine is just as efficient as the Diesel alternative JCB has produced for decades – and is far more effective than electronic batteries which currently don’t produce or store the energy levels needed to power large machinery. While this may eventually change as electronic vehicle innovation also grows, for now, the hydrogen engine is clearly proving beneficial for JCB.

Skills to support hydrogen engine developments

While the above are all exciting developments in the green space, success in any of these relies not just on the financial investment, but perhaps more crucially, the skills creation. Without the right engineers with the relevant training and experience, it will be impossible to continue with this innovation.

Indeed, Hydrogen Combustion Engine professionals are going to be in growing demand as this energy source is increasingly utilised to meet net zero targets. But finding experts with the understanding of hydrogen, its properties, behaviours, how its stored and how to harness the energy isn’t easy.

These individuals are already in short supply. The energy sector – particularly across renewables – is facing a growing skills gap on a global scale. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the renewable energy sector employed around 12 million individuals in 2020. By 2030, this is likely to reach 38 million jobs – and two million of these will be in hydrogen energy.

And as demand for hydrogen engines grows in the automotive industry and beyond, competition for these professionals will intensify. In this market, the ability to reach the right candidates, at the right time, with the right message becomes more crucial that it has ever been.

That’s where our expert Engineering by Murray team can add real value. From ensuring you have a top-notch candidate experience, to helping you look beyond the usual candidate pools, we can support your engineering hiring needs.

Contact the team to find out more.

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