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.”
Hello napelou, What if you could generate enough H2 "on-board" to satisfy the needs of a blended mixture; i.e. fuel and H2--whether that fuel is biogas, diesel, low lead, etc etc? Seems to me that would be a significant breakthrough and would possibly eliminate the need for fueling stations. (Other than gasoline.)
Billvon, thanks for saying the same things that I stated in another blog today, except that your explanations werer a bit clearer, and I didn't mention the fire and explosions issues. Hydrogen is one of those things that seems like a good idea until you look at the implementation of it. Are we engineers the only ones who can see problems, or what?
My feeling is that it would be real interesting to know how the aston-martin race car places in the race.
Basically, TJ, this is an engineering exercise. In fact, the people we talked to at Aston Martin used those exact words. As many commenters here have pointed out, hydrogen power isn't practical and it isn't new. Personally, I think the automakers are treating this as it should be treated -- as long-term research. Luckily, no state is trying to force the technology with passage of laws mandating that the auto companies build these vehicles.
Any fuel has energy that can be dangerous if suddenly released.
Hydrogen has properties conducive to sudden energy release.
1. It is the smallest atom, most able to leak through the minutest passages.
2. In general it loves to react with other materials. It embrittles metals making pressure vessels easy to fracture.
3. It cannot be readily liquified, requiring very high pressure vessels (350 bars is over 5,000 psi).
4. It is the easiest gas to ignite - a little bit of static charge will do.
5. Hydrogen burns with a colorless almost invisible flame. By the time you notice a fire, it's already too late. The only nice thing about a hydrogen fire is that the product, water, is basically non-toxic, though everything else engulfed will give off toxic fumes.
Weather services used hydrogen for their weather balloons most of the 20th century using electrolyzers. Despite all the training and modern safety precautions taken, accidents still occured alarmingly often. As a result, most weather services have changed to using helium. Helium is a non-starter for fuel.
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