Wednesday, 16 June 2021 22:33

Powering Tomorrow: The Creation and Future of the Hydrogen Engine

Written by Rupendra Brahambhatt, Interesting Engineering
Powering Tomorrow: The Creation and Future of the Hydrogen Engine Tramino/iStock


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After a number of years of promises that hydrogen is the clean fuel of the future, only for not much to happen, it now appears that future may finally be almost upon us.

Automotive manufacturers, including Mazda and Toyota, are currently developing hydrogen engines to power their vehicles, and these engines could one day replace not only hydrogen fuel cell technology and traditional combustion engines, but perhaps even electric vehicles (EVs).


However, while the EV market races ahead, the use of hydrogen engine technology in commercial vehicles is still in its initial phase, and the feasibility of hydrogen gas as a useful and practical alternative is yet to be proven. 


A hydrogen engine is an advanced version of traditional internal combustion engines that uses liquid hydrogen instead of gasoline as fuel. An automobile that runs on hydrogen engines is called a hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicle (HICEV).


These are different from hydrogen fuel cell electrified vehicles (FCEVs), such as Toyota's Mirai or the Hyundai Tucson, which use a fuel cell in which hydrogen chemically reacts with oxygen in the air to produce electricity that powers an electric motor.


Hydrogen engines generate power through the combustion of hydrogen and use fuel supply and injection systems that are modified versions of those used with gasoline engines. Except for the combustion of small amounts of engine oil, also the case with gasoline engines, hydrogen engines emit no CO2 when in use.


Hydrogen engines emit primarily water or water vapor as a byproduct, but the process of producing the hydrogen fuel can cause greenhouse gas emissions. However, one study has found even if hydrogen is extracted in the most inefficient manner, it is likely to cut the CO2 emissions by more than 30%, when compared with gasoline.
Difference Between HICEV and FCEV


The key difference between a HICEV and FCEV lies in the way hydrogen is used in these vehicles. The former involves the combustion of hydrogen while the latter performs an electrochemical reaction and uses liquid hydrogen to generate power for its electric motor. 


The hydrogen internal combustion engine (HICE) technology is still in its early phases of development. Meanwhile...

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