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Viritech and Reaction Engines Bring Rocket Science to Hydrogen Vehicles

By July 18, 2022 4   min read  (746 words)

July 18, 2022 |

Fuel Cells Works, Viritech and Reaction Engines Bring Rocket Science to Hydrogen Vehicles
  • Viritech, the leading developer of enabling technology for fuel-cell powertrains, signs Memorandum of Understanding with Reaction Engines, the inventors of the hybrid air-breathing rocket engine.
  • Reaction Engines’ technology represents a step-change in the efficiency of cooling systems.
  • The transformation of thermal efficiency will yet further increase the advantage of Viritech-enabled powertrains.

Viritech, the pioneer of advanced hydrogen fuel cell powertrains, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Reaction Engines, the developer of game-changing thermal management technology, to support the development of more efficient powertrains for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

This follows the hugely successful launch of the Apricale hypercar at the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed. The Apricale received massive interest from the public, the media, and the automotive industry, who were all fascinated by the combination of 1000 bhp in a zero-emission vehicle weighing just 1000kg. This is half the weight of some battery-electric hypercars, a reduction that is hugely attractive for both high-performance cars and commercial vehicles.

As pioneers of compact, lightweight FCEV powertrains, Viritech was naturally attracted to Reaction Engines’ world-leading technology, which was originally developed for hybrid air-breathing rocket engines to quench airflow temperatures of over 1000˚C to ambient in a fraction of a second. In 2019, Reaction Engines launched their Applied Technologies division to bring their unique compact and lightweight thermal management to other sectors, including automotive.

The two companies will jointly explore the first use of Reaction Engines’ technology in FCEV powertrains. Thermal management of fuel cells has always been a challenge because their operating temperature requires a large surface area radiator to maintain the correct temperature. Reaction Engines’ technology promises to significantly reduce the size and weight of the cooling system for both the fuel cell and the battery pack, which is an integral part of all FCEV powertrains.

FCEV powertrains will play a vital part in the decarbonisation of transport. For a 44-tonne truck, a battery-only powertrain is not viable, as it would reduce the payload of the truck by five tonnes. Hence for trucks, or any other vehicle where weight is critical (e.g. aerospace, shipping), fuel cells offer the best prospect of providing viable zero-emission propulsion.  The UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre forecasts that the UK will be manufacturing 140,000 fuel cell vehicles in 2035.

Timothy Lyons, CEO of Viritech said, “We are excited by the speed at which Viritech is gaining recognition across the automotive industry for its groundbreaking advances in hydrogen powertrain technologies. Today’s announcement of this important MOU with Reaction Engines, demonstrates how we are also working increasingly with leading British companies to cement the UK’s position as the go-to supplier of hydrogen technologies for global OEMs and Tier-1s.”

Matt Faulks, CTO of Viritech, commented, “We are delighted to be working with Reaction Engines. I see their technology as a key enabler for improving fuel cell thermal systems and I look forward to realising the benefits this can bring to our range of powertrain products and in the Apricale hypercar.”

Tom Burvill, Director for Applied Technologies at Reaction Engines said: “We are thrilled to be working with Viritech on such a pioneering project that should pave the way for more efficient zero- emission powertrains across the automotive sector. It’s a great example of how we can leverage our unique thermal management technology to help decarbonise this industry.”

About Reaction Engines

Reaction Engines is a privately held technology Company pioneering space access and sustainable technologies.  The Company is based in Culham, Oxfordshire, UK and Denver, Colorado, US and employs over 200 staff across its sites.

Reaction Engines has been at the forefront of engineering innovation for over 30 years, principally developing SABRE, a revolutionary new class of aerospace propulsion. SABRE enables us to go beyond the limits of flight both within and outside the atmosphere. Making space and high-speed travel more efficient, more accessible, more possible.

The Company is supported by the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency and the US team is working with DARPA, US Air Force and leading Industry Partners. In addition to private capital funding, in recent years Reaction Engines has received investment from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeing HorizonX.

Developed for SABRE, our proprietary precooler technology is truly transformational, delivering world-leading heat transfer capabilities across diverse industries to improve performance in motorsport, convert waste heat into renewable electricity and support more sustainable aviation.

Our revolutionary thermal management solutions have the potential to elevate life on Earth.

More information about Reaction Engines can be found at www.reactionengines.co.uk

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