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China finds the fuel of the future, and it's not hydrogen: this is the first engine that will use it

Written by Noel Budeguer
Published 10/06/2024 às 09:38
Engine - fuels - fuel - GAC - Toyota - ammonia
China finds the fuel of the future, and it's not hydrogen: this is the first engine that will use it

The future of engines is here: China develops ammonia engine technology, an innovative and clean fuel that promises to replace hydrogen and drastically reduce carbon emissions

China appears to have found the fuel of the future and it has nothing to do with hydrogen. Furthermore, the first engine that will use it has arrived. Hydrogen is reaching unsuspected limits, something that was completely demonstrated with the vehicle that will use it for the first time. Its innovative potential as an alternative and renewable fuel source is already widely recognized, so much so that it has sparked interest in several sectors, such as electricity, heating and transport.

Given the growing advancement driven by new alternatives that are emerging on the market, the global hydrogen market is expected to grow and exceed 200 billion dollars by the end of 2025, according to information from CAS.

The arrival of this new paradigm will result in new opportunities in the commercial, academic and governmental fields. With predictions putting hydrogen at the top, a large number of manufacturers have chosen to develop vehicles that run on H as fuel. However, now a different option has emerged that could make us forget the hydrogen fever.

China replaces hydrogen with the fuel of the future

Ammonia is seen as a clean fuel for boats, planes, trucks and trains. In fact, China's GAC believes it also has a promising future in passenger cars. They created a combustion engine to test this theory, capable of reducing emissions by approximately 90%. In some instances, ammonia can transport hydrogen even more efficiently than hydrogen itself.

It is easier to handle, as it is liquid at room temperature and does not require expensive compression or cryogenic liquefaction equipment. It can be produced cleanly, although most of its current production is not done this way. It is also very corrosive and is a dangerous substance for both humans and many other living beings. In this way, we are facing a fuel that has its pros and cons, as is the case with gasoline and diesel, the most conventional fuels.

Some projects associated with green ammonia vehicles aim to 'decompose' ammonia into hydrogen, release nitrogen into the air and use a fuel cell to produce electrical energy, while others use it in modified combustion engines. This last case is what we will develop next.

GAC has a partnership with Toyota and even sells models from the Japanese brand in some markets. Source: Automotivebusiness

China bets on a fuel that goes beyond hydrogen

Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (GAC) announced in a 2024 Tech Day presentation the development of a 2.0-liter engine with the ability to safely and effectively burn liquid ammonia. According to Bloomberg, GAC claims a power of 120 kW (161 hp) and a 90% reduction in carbon emissions compared to conventional fuels.

Technically, we are not talking about the first engine of these characteristics, since a decade ago, researchers from the Korean Energy Research Institute tested a car called AmVeh that used 70% ammonia and 30% gasoline. This reduced carbon emissions by 70% and so the AmVeh team was focused on a completely ammonia-fueled engine.

Since the GAC engine appears to continue producing some carbon dioxide, it probably also uses some other fuel source. This makes sense, given the low propagation speed of the flame in ammonia, which tends to make it difficult to operate the engine at high RPM or under low load conditions.

In short, China is betting on ammonia (the fuel of the future), although to do so it will have to face several challenges.

Engine Construction Considerations

The construction of this new engine represents a significant advance in fuel technology. With the growing demand for sustainable solutions, the use of ammonia as an alternative fuel could revolutionize the engine industry. Building engines that use ammonia instead of hydrogen or conventional fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel could pave the way for a future with lower carbon emissions.

Furthermore, building adequate infrastructure for ammonia production and distribution will be crucial. Just as China is investing in building these new engines, considerable effort will also be required in building storage and distribution systems to ensure the safe and efficient use of ammonia as a fuel.

Innovation in engine construction is just the beginning. The real challenge will be to integrate this technology on a large scale, considering all aspects involved, from production to final use in different types of vehicles. Building a robust and secure supply chain for ammonia will be critical to its success as a fuel of the future.

When considering all these aspects, the keyword “construction” becomes central in the discussion about the future of ammonia engines, along with “engine” and “fuel”. These words not only capture the essence of technological advancement, but also highlight the importance of a holistic approach in transitioning to more sustainable energy sources.

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Noel Budeguer

Of Argentine nationality, I am a news writer and specialist in the field. I cover topics such as science, oil, gas, technology, the automotive industry, renewable energy and all trends in the job market.

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