Ammonia has been proposed as a clean fuel for ships, passenger planes, trucks and trains, but China’s GAC Group believes it also has promise in passenger cars. It built an internal combustion engine to test the theory and was able to cut emissions by about 90%.
In some respects, ammonia (NH3) is better at carrying hydrogen than hydrogen is. It is easier to handle because it is a liquid at ambient temperature, so energy-consuming compression or cryogenic liquefaction units are not required.
You can make it cleanly — though that’s not the case with the vast majority of ways to make it today. It is also highly corrosive and is an “extremely dangerous substance” for humans and many animals. So it has both advantages and a lot of disadvantages – gasoline or diesel also has its own problems.
While many green ammonia car projects aim to “crack” the ammonia back into hydrogen, release the nitrogen back into the air and run fuel cells to generate electricity, others use it in improved internal combustion engines. This is what we see today.
Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd. (GAC) announced at its recent Technology Day launch that it has developed a 2.0-liter engine that can safely and efficiently burn liquid ammonia.according to BloombergGAC claims a peak power output of 120 kW (161 hp) and a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to conventional fuel.
Is this a “world first”? Uh, maybe.Researchers at the Korea Energy Research Institute built and tested a Amvich Ten years ago, it used 70% diesel and 30% petrol. It reduced carbon emissions by 70%, and at the time, the AmVeh team was absolutely focused on the idea of an all-ammonia fueled engine.
Given that the GAC engine still seems to produce some CO2, there may be other sources of fuel.This makes sense since the propagation speed of the flame in ammonia is very low tends to bog down the engine at high rpm or low engine load.
If GAC is serious about bringing ammonia engines to the automotive world, it will face other challenges – not the least of which is a complete lack of fueling infrastructure, although that may give the industry breathing room to create a car capable of Keep human beings’ healthy fueling system away from this highly toxic substance.
But it also inevitably produces high concentrations of nitrogen oxide emissions – and for diesel-adjacent compression engines, there is also the problem of unburned ammonia exiting the tailpipe. Of course, most ammonia today is produced using the high-emissions Haber Bosch process.
Still, we’d be interested to see where the concept goes if it makes it through a simple Tech Day demo. But that may not be the case.