For years, people have been talking about hydrogen as the technology of the future to guarantee sustainable mobility by avoiding the long refuelling times of electric cars. This energy source can guarantee power equivalent to that of a combustion car, and fill the tank at the same time as a gasoline-powered car.
Over the years, the electric car has gained ground by leaps and bounds. Firstly, because European institutions have been pushing for this type of mobility for years, and major manufacturers have consequently made huge investments that now need to be recouped.
What’s more, filling up with hydrogen isn’t cheap. It’s already expensive to produce, especially green hydrogen. But transport is also very sensitive, which is why various alternatives are being studied to reduce distribution costs. In any case, in Germany, where we were able to fill up a Stellantis van with hydrogen, the cost was the same as a full tank of diesel.
As for its use, for the moment it has come onto the market in gaseous form. With a fuel cell system, hydrogen-powered vehicles use electrolysis to produce electricity, which is fed into a battery and used by an electric motor. Only the resulting water vapour escapes through the tailpipe, and the vehicle behaves like an electric vehicle, with the advantage that recharging is much quicker.
But in addition to this type of use, popularized by the Toyota Mirai, some engine manufacturers (like the Japanese company itself) are studying the possibility of burning hydrogen with combustion engines. The operation is more inefficient, but retains much of the gasoline of combustion engines, with an engine feel and noise similar to that of gasoline.
This is exactly the aim of Europe’s first hydrogen engine. With an added trick: water injection.
Europe’s first hydrogen engine develops over 400 hp
The designers of this hydrogen engine are the engineers at AVL Racetech, experts in the development of racing technologies and suppliers to teams ranging from Formula 1 to NASCAR.
As announced on their own website, they have succeeded in developing a 2.0-liter turbocharged combustion engine that develops 410 hp at 6,500 rpm and delivers 500 Nm of torque between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm. This is typical of turbocharged gasoline engines of similar power, and until now has been higher than that of hydrogen engines.
To achieve these figures, hot water must be injected into the intake system. Using injectors, they spray water into the intake air manifold, which, they claim, ensures more even ignition of the hydrogen and avoids premature auto-ignition or detonations that could destroy the engine itself.
The system is not new. BMW, for example, has already worked with this system. In this case, the Germans sprayed water into the manifold to reduce the temperature of the air entering the combustion chamber and control premature auto-ignition caused by excessive temperature.