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Jessica Verhagen, CEO of Hydra Energy

In Canada, heavy-duty Class 8 trucks account for only 1.37 per cent of all vehicles on the road but contribute 30 per cent of all transport-related emissions. With governments setting ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this has opened the door to a wide variety of innovative technologies.

Recognizing the potential of decarbonizing a hard-to-abate sector, Hydra Energy developed a proprietary conversion kit that allows fleets to convert existing diesel trucks to run on hydrogen-diesel co-combustion. After years of on-road testing and collecting real-world data, Hydra Energy was the first company in the world to deliver a hydrogen-converted heavy-duty vehicle to a paying fleet customer in 2021.

Under the supervision of Hydra’s director of innovation, Patrick Steiche, the company has been able to work alongside institutions such as UBC and SFU and in partnership with Mitacs. Not only has this allowed Hydra to gain critical insight into emission results – but it has led to the expansion of our team by hiring students after they graduate.

One such person is Hydra’s powertrain R&D engineer Pooyan Kheirkhah, who joined the team first as an intern and later as a full-time employee after completing his PhD. In addition to mentoring other students Hydra works with, Dr. Pooyan conducts research in lab and real-world settings, helping advance the company’s emissions reduction targets. To date, Hydra’s co-combustion conversion can displace up to 40 per cent of diesel with hydrogen, a number that we hope to increase in coming years.

The next step in Hydra’s evolution is incorporating machine learning to auto-calibrate the hydrogen injection process for heavy-duty trucks converted with Hydra’s co-combustion kit. This will eliminate the downtime needed to switch between different makes and models, allowing the technology to be truly platform agnostic. The work of Hydra’s machine-learning lead, Michael Karpinski-Leydier, will allow us to scale up conversions more quickly. Additionally, the models he creates will help predict efficiency and fuel savings in the future.

Developing new technologies for the future of the mobility sector is a lengthy process that requires R&D to utilize every possible solution that can put Canada on the right path to achieve the net-zero target by the middle of the century. To be able to identify the right solutions and test them in the real world, the research and exploration of these innovative ideas need to happen now.

Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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