In yet another sign that hydrogen is creeping into the consciousness of global automotive designers, sports car maker Aston Martin plans to run a hydrogen-fueled vehicle in a 24-hour Grand Touring (GT) race later this month.
Aston Martin’s Hydrogen Hybrid Rapide S will employ a 6.0-liter, V12 engine capable of burning hydrogen or gasoline in the ADAC Nürburgring GT race in Germany on May 17. It will reportedly be the first hydrogen-fueled entrant to race in such an event.
”Our goal was to compete with this engine in the ADAC 24 race in Nürburgring,” Matthew Clarke, spokesman for Aston Martin, told Design News. “”We’ll use a combination of gasoline and hydrogen, and we’ll leave it to the driver to judge the racing conditions and decide which to use.”
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Aston Martin’s Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S features a twin-turbocharged V12 engine that burns hydrogen or gasoline. It will run in the 24-hour ADAC Nürburgring race in Germany on May 17. (Source: Aston Martin)
Aston Martin’s use of hydrogen in such a high-profile venue is a first for the racing community, and it serves as a sign that automakers are acutely aware of the need to look at the long-term possibilities of hydrogen. Earlier this month, Toyota announced that it plans to sell a hydrogen-powered vehicle for between $50,000 and $100,000 in 2015.
Aston Martin’s Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S will employ the company’s new AM11 V12 engine. It will, however, enhance the naturally aspirated V12 with twin turbochargers as a means of reducing the engine’s compression ratio from 11:1 to 9.5:1, to accommodate hydrogen.
Working with engineers from Alset Global, Aston Martin also optimized the software in the engine’s electronic control unit (ECU), enabling the vehicle to switch back and forth between the two fuels. The ECU enables the driver to burn gasoline, hydrogen, or a blend of the two fuels. The V12, which offers approximately 550 HP when burning gasoline, is likely to hit a similar number with hydrogen.
In the Nürburgring race, Aston Martin will employ four hydrogen fuel tanks -- two in the trunk and two more where the passenger seat would otherwise reside. Pressure for the tanks will be maintained at 350 bar. A fifth tank will store gasoline.
Aston Martin plans to use hydrogen at Nürburgring because a racing venue provides a meaningful test for the fuel and the engine. "Hydrogen has great potential as a fuel source, and we think it deserves further investigation,” Clarke told us. “Unless people test it in the public arena, then the debate about hydrogen won’t happen. To encourage that debate is a healthy thing.”
Hydrogen is about as impractical a fuel as could possibly exist.
#1 - where do we get it from, and how much energy do we have to expend to get it in a usable form? Any source of hydrogen has a very high energy cost as compared to the final energy available from the final hydrogen fuel. So far, all the schemes I have heard of require 3 to 4 times the energy expenditure as compared to the amount of energy available from the final hydrogen.
#2 - Safety - Having worked with a welding process that used hydrogen - Hydrogen will burn with just about ANY combination with air. And you can't see the flame. Hydrogen is very hard to contain as the small molecule will leak out of a vessel and piping system that can safely hold any other gas.
#3 - Considerring the skills of the average driver... Are you going to trust the average driver to manipulate the special refueling gear required to refuel a hydrogen vehicle? And how much is having a skilled refueling tech going to add to the cost of the process?
#4 - What is the real pollution cost? Just becausae the car would emit just water does not take into consideration the pollution cost through the whole supply chain. What is the source? Petroleum? Might as well burn the petroleum in the car as it will still be less efficient to create the hydrogen and thgen burn it. Something has to supply the energy to produce the hydrogen, so how much junk is produced by that process? An electic car doen't pollute out its own tailpipe, it just has a tailpipe at the power plant...
I disagree - the Honda FCX Clarity is ready for production as soon as 2018 depending on the hydrogen infrastructure.
California already started putting in hydrogen fueling stations.
There are already around >50Honda FCX Claritys being leased..
The great thing about hydrogen is that it can be produced from almost anything - there are even home gas furnaces that can produce hydrogen - imagine having your own hydrogen fueling station at home - kind of ruin most business models.
Only reason you haven't heard much about hydrogen cars is the lack of publicity stemming from current bad governement investments.
Also having worked on pure electric vehichles - this type of technology is still a long way off from being practical.
Hydrogen powered cars are nothing new. I can remember news stories in the 1970's that showed reporters putting a cup under the tailpipe of a hydrogen powered car and drinking the condensed steam coming out (yuk).
To throw another wet blanket on hydrogen, it's difficult to transport. Liquifying it isn't practical and any pipelines used to convey it would need to be stainless to minimize the corrosive and embrittlement effects of hydrogen gas on metal.
At least with battery electrics and hybrids, and even propane and natural gas, the infrastructure largely exists. With hydrogen none exists. I wouldn't expect to see hydrogen vehicles on the showrooms anytime soon. Hydrogen gas as a stored fuel is a non starter.
Elemental hydropgen does not exist in the atmospere, nor does it squirt out of a well in Texaa, or from some land we might conquer. The only commercial sources are "stripping" hydrocarbons such as methane, or by electrolyzing water. The former delivers hydrogen with considerably less heat of combustion than the hydrocarbon with which you started, and the carbon component of the feedstock is generally released as CO2. Electrolysis is also inefficient (50-60%), and that's AFTER you have run a heat engine on fossil fuel at <50% efficiency to generate the electricity, so your overall conversion from fuel to hydrogen energy is <20%. Electrolysis might make sense from a renewable source when its generating capacity exceeds demand and the extra would otherwise be wasted. So, let's take our slide rules out of our rectums before waving those cheerleading pompoms.
Second, running an Otto cycle engine on hydrogen is no big deal. The same diaphragm carburetors that we use for propane or natural gas will handle hydrogen.
"While this is an interesting development as far as the racing using hydrogen goes, the problem still remains the same. How do you fuel these things. A dual fuel capability is very good, and could perhaps lead to something useful."
Naperloue, I think the issue you had mentioned can be addressed in future. When technology develops further and goes for mass production, such cost factors can be come down. Now a day's most of the cars are fitted with hybrid fueling systems and this can provide an alternate fuel option to the users.
I'd be curious NaperLou what the true end cost of a hydrogen station comes to these days. The last time I heard a figure was about $15mill in the late 90's and that was for basically a two pump kiosk type setup. Until that comes down you will never see hydrogen in use much outside of large population centers. Hydrogen is a very goo fuel but far from perfect. Production, fuel cost and storage are the three bigg elephants in the room. One proponent of hydrogen was claiming the energy equivilent of a gallon of gasoline was rather higher. He was comparing $3.50 a gallon gas with hydrogen that was running about $25 per. The majority of it is derived from pertroleum currently so thts not very surprising.
You're unquestionably right, Louis. Big automakers do these things as a means of dipping a toe in the water -- seeing what other problems might be lurking out there that they didn't expect. When I started writing about these topics in '88, everybody -- GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda -- was doing battery-electric cars. They tried, they went their period of disillusionment, they came back and tried again. I suspect the same will happen with hydrogen. It will come and go for another couple of decades, depending on how much automakers are able to sink into these projects, knowing they won't get a payback for a long, long time.
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