GAC China says it's building "world first" ammonia engine for cars

GAC China says it's building "world first" ammonia engine for cars
GAC has presented what it calls the world's first ammonia engine for passenger cars – an alternative clean(er) motoring technology
GAC has presented what it calls the world's first ammonia engine for passenger cars – an alternative clean(er) motoring technology
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GAC has presented what it calls the world's first ammonia engine for passenger cars – an alternative clean(er) motoring technology
GAC has presented what it calls the world's first ammonia engine for passenger cars – an alternative clean(er) motoring technology

Ammonia has been proposed as a clean fuel for ships, airliners, trucks and trains, but China's GAC believes it could also have a future in passenger cars. It's built a combustion engine to test the theory, capable of reducing emissions by around 90%.

Ammonia (NH3) carries hydrogen better than hydrogen carries hydrogen, in some regards. It's easier to handle, since it's liquid at ambient temperatures, and it thus doesn't require energy-hungry compression or cryogenic liquefaction gear.

You can make it cleanly – although that's not how the overwhelming majority of it is made today. It's also highly caustic, and an "extremely hazardous substance" to humans and many animals alike. So it's got plenty of cons along with its pros – not that gasoline or diesel don't have their own issues.

While many green ammonia vehicle projects aim to "crack" the ammonia back into hydrogen, release the nitrogen back into the air and run a fuel cell to create electric power, others use it in modified combustion engines. And that's what we're looking at today.

Guangzhou Automotive Group Co. (GAC) announced at a recent Tech Day presentation that it had developed a 2.0-liter engine capable of burning liquid ammonia safely and efficiently. According to Bloomberg, GAC claims a 120 kW (161 hp) peak power output, and a 90% reduction in carbon emissions compared to conventional fuels.

Is it a "world first?" Eh, maybe. Researchers at the Korean Institute for Energy Research built and tested a car called AmVeh a decade ago, which ran on 70% ammonia, 30% gasoline. It cut down carbon emissions by 70%, and at the time, the AmVeh team was definitely focused on the idea of a fully ammonia-fueled engine.

Given that the GAC engine still appears to create some carbon dioxide, there's possibly some other fuel source going in there as well. That'd make sense, as the low propagation speed of flame in ammonia tends to make engines struggle at high RPMs or low engine loads.

GAC will face other challenges if it truly wants to bring ammonia engines to the auto world – not the least of which will be a complete lack of fueling infrastructure, although this might give the industry breathing room to create a fueling system that'll keep humans safe from this highly toxic substance.

But there's also its pretty much unavoidable tendency to create high levels of NOx emissions – and in the case of diesel-adjacent compression style engines, the problem of having unburned ammonia coming out of the tailpipe as well. And of course the fact that most of today's ammonia is made using the high-emissions haber-bosch process.

Still, we'll be interested to see where this concept goes, if it makes it past a simple tech day presentation. Which it may not.

Source: Bloomberg

Less than 10% efficient overall vs 85% for EVs. A 1/4" hole in a pipeline shut down my town for 3 days and killed everything downhill from the leak, turning everything alive dead, black.
As a fuel, not a chance. And very expensive to make as takes so much, 6x the energy.
Old J Hawthorne
Geez, when are we gonna give up on the steam engine (which is, in modified form, what all reciprocating engines are). They are inherently inefficient, with all the reciprocating parts, ignition systems, cooling systems, exhaust systems, etc, etc. Look at your refrigerator. It sits there doing it's job, almost completely maintenance-free, lasts for years (sometimes decades) without so much as an oil change. To me, that's efficiency. No internal combustion engine will ever compete with the electric motor, no matter what fuel it's running on. OK, so it doesn't have the rump-rump growl. Get a loudspeaker, hook it up and it will make whatever noise you need to boost your ego.
I'm holding out for a Mr Fusion reactor.
The first cars had a carburetor that could switch to alcohol as fuel.
Old J Hawthorne, if you consider that the modern power grid is woefully inadequate to power all of the up and coming electric vehicles, there is the inevitable overload of the power system. California is mandating all electric vehicles by 2035. They do not have the infrastructure to charge all of the new electric vehicles. They are already telling people that they must charge their cars in the off cycles. How will all of this save the planet? Most of the power is still generated by coal, oil, or gas. You still have to generate the power to charge the cars. And we do not have the infrastructure to use rail. Do you want to wait for a bus to get where you're going? Just calm down and think. Be well and God bless.

Francois Isaac de Rivaz designed in 1806 the De Rivaz engine, the first internal combustion engine, which ran on a hydrogen/oxygen mixture. Étienne Lenoir produced the Hippomobile in 1863. Paul Dieges patented in 1970 a modification to internal combustion engines which allowed a gasoline-powered engine to run on hydrogen.
Tokyo City University have been developing hydrogen internal combustion engines from 1970.
Mazda has developed Wankel engines that burn hydrogen.
Between 2005 - 2007, BMW tested a luxury car named the BMW Hydrogen 7, powered by a hydrogen ICE, which achieved 301 km/h (187 mph) in tests..
Old J Hawthorne, it is still early for all EL vehicles to compete for efficiency with the internal combustion engine vehicle. Energy density of market batteries are still under half value of the carbon-based fuels.
The real car test, 0km/h-400km/h-0km/h, is again won by internal combustion engine vehicle.
The myth that the adoption of more EV charging will not be met by the Power Grid has long been found to be false. If anything having your B.E.V. plugged in at home can be your emergency back up power if weather, natural disaster or Grid failure does occur. As the demand for electricity increases to power B.E.V.'s, the amount of electricity required to support, manufacture & deliver fuel, diesel, oil for the fossil fuel industry is also reduced. Many homes already have electric ovens, dryers & 220 volt supply which CAN provide sufficient charging power. I've never heard of blocks of homes being asked not to use your oven or clothes dryer between the hours of 12 midnight & 6 am - the time when most charging would take place and as demand grows, so will the ability to supply it. We've only scratched the surface of the amount of electric power available & 25 years ago the same old story was circulating - "Computers, Cell Phones & the Internet are going to cripple or overload our Power Grid." Funny, we seem to still be here working just fine.
If they achieve the feat of using ammonia as fuel, one can consider using the combustion heat to heat the ammonia/water chemical couple and replace the compression air conditioning system by the old absorption refrigeration process. This will still increase the efficiency of the engine, which will not need to move the compressor.
While pure hydrogen is highly explosive anywhere from 10-90% in air, embrittles metals and can even leak through iron, there is nothing like a small ammonia leak to burn your lungs and force you to run for your life. What is theoretically possible is not always practical in the real world.
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