A NORTH-East engineering firm has been given £14.6m to develop a carbon-free hydrogen engine, protecting 640 jobs in Darlington.

The Government-backed Brunel project is being led by Darlington-based engine maker Cummins.

It is aimed at developing a hydrogen engine, designed to replace existing large diesel engines in road haulage

Jonathan Atkinson, executive director of Cummins On-highway Business in Europe, said the project meant hundreds of jobs in the town would be maintained, with workers able to up their skills.

He said: "This project will significantly accelerate the pace of hydrogen engine development, ensuring that the UK is at the vanguard of this exciting new technology which will play a significant part in de-carbonising the global commercial vehicle fleet."

Lord Grimstone, minister for investment, said: "The Brunel Project is carrying on Darlington’s long tradition of skilled engineering which will continue to grow for many years to come. We are working to build back better and greener after the pandemic and government investment in this scheme will help secure a better future for the next generation."

“The project provides further proof that the UK is leading the world in the cutting-edge, green technology that will help us leave petrol and diesel behind and achieve net zero by 2050.”

Funding has been awarded through the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s Collaborative R&D competition, which backs businesses developing green automotive technology.

The project has the potential to revolutionise how goods are transported and could provide further insight into how hydrogen can be fully utilised as a future fuel.

As part of efforts to tackle the climate crisis, the Government is consulting on phasing out the sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles by 2040.

If the scheme is successful, it could prevent more than 11m tons of carbon a year going into the atmosphere – the equivalent to the yearly emissions of 2.4 million cars.

The work will take place at Cummins' UK research facility in Darlington.

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said: "I am delighted to learn of Cummins plans for further investment in Darlington, particularly when that investment is going towards decarbonisation.

"Tees Valley is leading the green industrial revolution in many fronts and if that leads to more job opportunities in Darlington that has to be something we celebrate."

Jonathan Dulston, deputy leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: "Cummins is a long-standing name in Darlington and we are delighted they have got this contract and is once again playing its part. The work being done in Tees Valley to contribute to climate change solutions is really important."

The project is one of four to be awarded funding through the competition, which provides grants for research and development that helps the automotive sector make its low carbon transition.

Ian Constance, chief executive at the APC, said: “These projects tackle some really important challenges in the journey to net-zero road transport.

"They address range anxiety and cost which can be barriers to people making the switch to electric vehicles and they also provide potential solutions to the challenge of how we decarbonise public transport and the movement of goods.

“By investing in this innovation, we’re taking these technologies closer to the point where they are commercially viable, which will strengthen the UK’s automotive supply chain, safeguard or create jobs and reduce harmful greenhouse emissions.”

Mr Atkinson added: "The APC18 project will maintain and upskill many hundreds of key technical jobs, not just at Cummins and our consortium partners but across our total supply base.

"In the mid-to-long term it offers major potential to expand our high-value export business, supplying hydrogen engines and sub-systems manufactured in the UK to customers around the world.”

Strategy backed - Page 43

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Darlington Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054