World's first ammonia-electric semi packs as much energy as the Tesla

World's first ammonia-electric semi packs as much energy as the Tesla
Amogy has presented "the world's first ammonia-powered, zero-emissions semi truck"
Amogy has presented "the world's first ammonia-powered, zero-emissions semi truck"
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Amogy has presented "the world's first ammonia-powered, zero-emissions semi truck"
Amogy has presented "the world's first ammonia-powered, zero-emissions semi truck"
The 300 kW ammonia powertrain, including tanks, cracking reactors and fuel cell stacks, appears to fit rather nicely on board
The 300 kW ammonia powertrain, including tanks, cracking reactors and fuel cell stacks, appears to fit rather nicely on board

Claiming a system-level energy density 5X higher than batteries, Amogy has rolled out "the world's first ammonia-powered, zero-emission semi truck." It holds about 900 kWh of energy, like the Tesla Semi, but you can refuel it in about eight minutes.

Ammonia does a better job of storing hydrogen than hydrogen itself, in many ways, and it could help clean up some difficult industries that require high-density energy. Brooklyn company Amogy has now presented a world-first ammonia-powered semi truck.

Ammonia has two chief advantages over hydrogen as an energy carrier. One is the fact that it's a liquid at ambient temperature and pressure levels, making it a ton easier to store, transport and handle; hydrogen either needs to be heavily compressed to around 700 bar, or else kept cryogenically cooled as a liquid, to just 20.28 K (−252.87 °C; −423.17 °F) – both of these are energy-intensive processes. The second is how much energy it carries: by volume, nearly three times as much as hydrogen gas, and by weight, more than 20 times as much as today's lithium batteries.

It can be produced cleanly, and it can be used as a fuel in many different ways, many of which create zero harmful or climate-relevant emissions. And while it does have certain drawbacks, green ammonia is viewed as a promising clean fuel alternative for industries like shipping, aviation and other applications where batteries and hydrogen gas simply can't carry enough juice to get the job done.

Amogy was founded in 2020 to accelerate the development of green ammonia as a power source for clean transport. The company says it had a 5-kW ammonia drone flying by July 2021, followed quickly by a 100-kW ammonia tractor in May 2022.

Now it's scaled-up its ammonia powertrain to 300 kW, and presented it in what it claims is the "world's first ammonia-powered, zero-emission semi truck" – a 2018 Freightliner Cascadia Class 8 truck that's been retrofit with an ammonia fuel system slung under the cabin and stacked up behind it, appearing to add little in the way of bulk to the standard truck.

The 300 kW ammonia powertrain, including tanks, cracking reactors and fuel cell stacks, appears to fit rather nicely on board
The 300 kW ammonia powertrain, including tanks, cracking reactors and fuel cell stacks, appears to fit rather nicely on board

It fills up in eight minutes, to carry around 900 kWh of "total stored net electric energy" – roughly the same amount of energy as the Tesla Semi stores in its lithium battery packs. Amogy says its "carbon-free energy system ... has 5X higher system-level energy densities compared to lithium batteries," so it's reasonable to expect this cab will be significantly lighter than the Tesla.

The truck has been built, filled up and "tested for several hours on the campus of Stony Brook University," and it's scheduled for full-scale real-world performance evaluation on a test track later this month.

So how would we expect it to compare to the Tesla Semi? Does ammonia look better than batteries for this kind of heavy transport? That's very hard to say; Amogy doesn't provide performance or range estimates at this stage.

We do know there'll be inefficiencies to deal with here that don't apply to battery-electric vehicles. Amogy's powertrain features an ammonia cracker that converts the ammonia back into hydrogen. It then runs that hydrogen through a fuel cell to create electrical power, and uses that power to drive electric motors.

So if Amogy's "total stored net electric energy" of 900 kWh simply means there's enough ammonia on board to theoretically store 900 kWh, it doesn't mean 900 kWh will reach the motors. There'll be losses in the onboard ammonia cracking reactors, further losses in purification stages that make sure the hydrogen's ready for use in the fuel cell, and further losses at the fuel cell stage.

We don't know what technologies Amogy is using, or the efficiency factor at any of these stages. We can try to guess, though. The Ammonia Energy Association cites a best case ammonia cracking efficiency of 76%, but that's likely at industrial scale – we wouldn't expect a cracking reactor that fits on a truck or a tractor to operate that efficiently. Still, if we use that figure, some 684 kWh of energy will reach the fuel cell in the form of hydrogen. If we take a high-end estimate for PEM fuel cell efficiency at 65%, then 444.6 kWh of energy will make it through to the motors. That's a little under half of the original 900 kWh, so in this optimistic scenario, the Amogy truck will travel about half as far as the Tesla Semi.

That doesn't sound great. But on the other hand, you could easily add range by sticking another couple of ammonia tanks somewhere – and that'll be a much less painful process than trying to extend the range of a lithium-battery-powered semi. Plus, this is a retrofit; designing a new truck around the ammonia concept would let you do all sorts of things.

We'll be interested to learn how this machine performs. We've been harping on for a while now about the widely predicted lithium resource squeeze that's expected to kick in over the next decade; there's nowhere near enough lithium production to satisfy the projected demand as the EV transition accelerates – let alone other battery-relevant metals.

Ammonia represents an inefficient, but high-density energy storage medium. It carries less than half the energy diesel does, but more than lithium or hydrogen, and it can be produced and used cleanly. It's well-understood in terms of storage, transport and handling, and it's already available in bulk quantities if you don't mind working with dirty fuel to start with. And as an easily available liquid fuel, it could absolutely be relevant in the freight sector.

Amogy is looking at marine next. It says it'll have a 1-MW-scale ammonia powered tugboat to show off later this year, and it hopes to scale this up over 10 MW by 2025, to produce a powertrain relevant to container ships on trans-oceanic voyages. There are other ammonia-powered shipping projects in the works; Australian mining company Fortescue, for example, says it'll have a 75-meter (246-ft) vessel running sometime this year. But this is expected to use an ammonia combustion powertrain rather than an electric system run through a fuel cell.

Check out a highly uninformative video of the Amogy truck below.

Amogy Presents World’s First Ammonia-Powered Semi Truck

Source: Amogy

The man in the uninformative video would do well to be wearing a full hazmat suit with built in respirator. A lung-full of diesel or gasoline fumes will make you a bit dizzy for a while; a lung-full of ammonia fumes will make you a bit dead.
dphiBbydt : I hear you. I believe the refrigeration industry moved to Freon from ammonia for the very same reason. Leakage and resulting health hazard. It may do alright on high seas if designed right where dissipation in the event of a leakage would pose a much lesser hazard.
Yah very soon we will reach the levels of Aliens in terms of technology.
I just don't understand why we keep trying to find an answer to a question that does not exist. Off-the-shelf battery technology already permits us to affordably and practically do what we want to do in terms of transport, on land at least. Why keep trying to re-invent the wheel? Unless, of course, it's so that a small number of individuals can claim the millions that equally gormless governments keep doling out n the name of ill-conceived green-washing like money grows on trees...
I have doubts its better than batteries as that system is quite bulky and overall efficiency of delivering power to motors is only about 35 percent when cracking and fuel cell loses are factored in....about the same as a fossil fueled diesel but carries only a thrid as much energy as a diesel tanks. If you have that bulk and only 450 kWh of net energy thats a loser period. And forget using it for flights as too bulky for a plane. Might be best used for ocean going ships or trains but not smaller transports
It does have the advantage of not being charged like our current batteries. The down side is human health.
The problem besides the danger of pure ammonia, is it takes 6x the energy/mile as so inefficient to make, use.
And E semis will shortly have swapped packs fueling in 1-5 minutes and able to use LFP batteries.
Plus a new E semi without a battery pack costs 20% less than a diesel semi. And packs by charging with grid services save enough to pay for the pack lease.
Or pay 25% more for the Ammonia one and 6x more for fuel.
Anhydrous (free of water) ammonia is used on a regular basis in farming for nitrogen fertilizer. It is well understood as a safety issue. (One of the many reasons farming is second only to logging in OSHA's mortality rates.) Using energy density as a metric is incomplete because it ignores the weight of the hardware needed to convert the chemical energy to kinetic energy at the wheel. Diesel may be more energy dense, but considering engine and transmission weight, it's probably about the same as this ammonia system. Batteries are less energy dense, but the rest of the hardware weighs less to counteract the additional weight.
As for the estimated 65% fuel cell efficiency, I think that is for a combined cycle plant with a steam turbine. Not feasible on a semi. But it could be feasible on an ocean tanker or container ship.
Long haul diesel semi-trucks can go 900 miles between fueling and stick to established interstate highway routes. But a single driver can only cover about 600 miles per day. By law, drivers have to stop for breaks. So stop at the company terminal, swap batteries, grab a bit to eat, and continue.
Swapping batteries eliminates strain on the grid (meaning it maximizes charging cost efficiencies) and the batteries weigh less (200-300 mile range vs 700-900 which is not feasible). Plus the charged batteries waiting for a truck could be used for grid management, a potential profit center for the dispatcher.
I just want them to develop the "Mr. Fusion Reactor", so I can just dump some banana peels, old soda bottles, and a 1/2 can of beer.
Expanded Viewpoint
You just can't get over on Mother Nature! When are all of these green colored glasses wearing people going to wake up to that fact?? The last time I checked, you can't squeeze ammonia out of anything that grows in or above ground! So, what is the "Carbon footprint" of the machinery that makes ammonia? It's just another boondoggle set up to fleece assets out of people, just like the now failing crypto currency scams!
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