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The Hydrogen Engine

There are two ways for automobile engines to utilize hydrogen fuel. The first is a Hydrogen
Internal Combustion Engine or HICE. With HICE, hydrogen is injected directly into the
combustion chamber and burnt as part of the fuel mixture. With slight modifications, many
existing gasoline engines can be converted to run directly on hydrogen.
Another method of using hydrogen is through a fuel cell. With this method, hydrogen and
oxygen is injected into a chamber where it reacts with a catalyst to produce electricity. They
are very efficient and small fuel cells produce enough electricity to power electric cars.
However fuel cells are very expensive to build.

A Hydrogen Fuel Cell produces electricity to power
electric cars.
An Internal Combustion
Hydrogen Engine burns
hydrogen directly.
Hydrogen IC engines work in the similar manner and has same appearance as that of the conventional IC
engine. Much research is going on in this field. For transport sector, a rating of 1 - 3 can be given for
compatibility with existing technology. The hydrogen based IC engines can be made to use hybrid
systems, dual fuel systems or hydrogen alone.
A comparison of the power densities of conventional ICEs, a H2 Genset, a PEM fuel cells and an electric
vehicle is shown infigure.

Power densities and specific power for selected energy conversion technologies
Technologies are: aluminum block 4-stroke; SI-ICE, iron block 4-stroke SI-ICE; hydrogen lean burn SI
generator set (SI GenSet); electric vehicle (EV) with lithium battery; compression ignition direct injected
(CIDI) diesel; proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell; and EV with lead-acid batteries. The
horizontal line is the DOE goal for fuel cells in 2004.

Issues to consider when adapting an internal combustion engine to run on hydrogen
Most hydrogen engines developed for research have been adapted from conventional gasoline, diesel or
natural gas engines. Figure below lists the various features to consider when re-designing an internal
combustion engine to run on hydrogen.
In a traditional naturally aspirated internal combustion engine with external mixture formation, the low
density hydrogen gas displaces the charge air (approximately 30% for stoichiometric mixtures). This
means that the calorific value of the hydrogen mixture in the cylinder is less than the equivalent gasoline
mixture. As a consequence, when run on hydrogen, the volumetric efficiency is reduced and the engine
will produce less power and torque (typical reduction 20-40%). There are several approaches that can be
adopted, either individually or in combination, in order to increase the performance of a hydrogen ICE.
These methods include:
Boosting by fitting a turbocharger or supercharger
Direct injection of the hydrogen into the cylinder (also known as internal mixture formation)
Mixing cryogenic hydrogen gas with aspirated air
With hydrogen direct injection, the maximum power can by 17% higher than the base gasoline engine.
vehicle has a GHG emission of 3 g CO
equivalent / km. A non-hybrid LH
(NG 4000, Port
Injection Spark Ignition - PISI) powertrain has GHG emission of 215 g/km while a hybrid (NG 4000,
PISI) powertrain emits 180 g/km at full load. The knocking noise produced is similar to diesel engines for
transport sector. For stationary applications the noise emitted is 60dB (A).
Although the use of hydrogen in an internal combustion engine virtually eliminates CO
, CO and HC
emissions, NOx emissions can be a problem. This is because NOx formation is dependent on combustion
temperature, which depends on the air-fuel ratio. Several strategies can be adopted in order to keep the
NOx emissions within the legislative limits. These strategies are:
Run as lean as possible (l > 1.8)
Apply exhaust gas re-circulation (EGR)
Lower the hydrogen injection temperature
Optimise the engine's cooling strategies
If using direct injection, optimise the injection timing to reduce NOx
Apply a NOx exhaust aftertreatment system
Lean operation at high load requires an LNT
A traditional three-way catalyst can be used if stoichiometric operation is achieved
Table 1 compares key properties for hydrogen and gasoline relevant to combustion in a spark ignition
engine. With a high research octane number (RON) of over 130, conventional knock is not an issue,
allowing compression ratios up to around 14.5:1 for a dedicated hydrogen engine. However, the low
minimum ignition energy of hydrogen leads to difficulties in preventing pre-ignition from hot sources in
the combustion chamber (e.g. surface deposits). Pre-ignition can limit the usable air/fuel ratio to leaner
than stoichiometric, which in turn limits the power and torque of naturally aspirated hydrogen engines. In
converting an existing gasoline engine to operate on hydrogen, a number of measures are required to
reduce the tendency for pre-ignition:
Improved combustion chamber cooling
Valve timing for reduced trapped residuals
Improved oil control (to reduce deposits and other ignition sources)
Low fuel temperature at injection (available with liquid hydrogen storage).
Table 1: Hydrogen Fuel Properties Compared to Gasoline
Property Gasoline Hydrogen
Lower calorific value (MJ/kg) 44.4 120
Octane number (RON) 95 130
Minimum ignition energy (mJ) 0.25 0.02
Adiabatic flame temperature (K) 2270 2384
Laminar flame speed (m/s) 0.3 1.9
Stoichiometric AFR 14.5 34.3
Flammability AFR limits 25 - 4 345 - 5

Inlet manifold backfire has also been widely reported on experimental Hydrogen engines operating on a
pre-mixed charge. However both BMW and Ford have reported no problems using sequential port
injection. Direct injection would give least risk of manifold backfire, but does not appear to be essential
for a successful engine.
The following table 2 highlights the main advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen ICE and fuel cell
Table 2: Comparison of H2-ICE vehicles and H2 fuel cell vehicles
Advantages Disadvantages
Hydrogen ICE
* Well-understood technology
* Existing engine hardware / technology
* Existing manufacturing facilities
* Thermal management
* Power density
* NOx control and aftertreatment
* Lower efficiency
Fuel Cell
* Substantial fuel economy benefit over
H2-ICE (and a smaller but still significant
advantage over hybrid H2-ICE)
* Zero tailpipe emissions
* Quiet, good NVH
* Availability of power for electric
systems and auxiliary units
* Possible government incentives for
* Vehicle/powertrain weight
* Vehicle/powertrain cost
* Thermal management
* Water management in cell
* Precious metal supply/cost
* System life
* Servicing cost, complexity &
* Operation in hot/cold climates
* Start up time

* Requirement for hybrid
application (to achieve good
transient response)

Among the properties of the hydrogen which contributes to its use as a fuel source :-
1. Wide flammability range.Compared to other fuels, hydrogen is not so fussy with its
density mixture. It can ignite anywhere from a Fuel-to-Air mixture of 4 to 74
2. Easily ignitable.Hydrogen ignites easier than gasoline. This provides for efficient and
prompt ignition but the drawback is hot spots within the combustion chamber can
cause premature ignition.
3. High expansion mass.The expanding gases formed by spent hydrogen has a much
higher velocity and mass compared to gasoline.
4. Easily dispersed.The ability of hydrogen to blend with air is greater than gasoline,
thus forming a more uniform mixture.
5. Low density.Hydrogen occupies a very large volumetric area in its gaseous state. To
facilitate the storage of hydrogen gas, it has to be stored in its liquid form within
high pressure tanks.
6. Low boiling temperature.Liquid hydrogen cannot be mixed with other liquid fuels. Its
low boiling point (-252 C) will freeze other fuels. This means a separate storage tank
is needed to store liquid hydrogen.