Will you be filling up your car with liquid ammonia in the future instead of petrol or diesel?

    Chinese giant GAC Group announced at its latest Tech Day it has developed the world’s first ammonia-powered internal-combustion engine for passenger cars, reportedly in partnership with Toyota.

    As reported by Autocar, this alternative-fuelled combustion engine is inspired by the maritime and haulage industries, which are currently exploring exploring ammonia to replace diesel for ships and trucks.

    This GAC Group and Toyota-developed ammonia-combustion 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine produces 120kW of power. It also emits 90 per cent less carbon than an equivalent petrol engine.

    Ammonia is a toxic compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, with more than two thirds of the world’s annual production used by agricultural sectors as fertilisers. It’s also used in cleaning products, as well as in a number of pharmaceutical products.

    Producing ammonia has traditionally been considered energy-intensive, though there has been a recent surge in ‘green’ ammonia that’s created using renewable energy sources.

    Ammonia is combustable though it possesses around half the energy density of petrol at 3.6kWh per litre. It’s worth noting however that compared to hydrogen fuel, ammonia is more energy efficient.

    “We’ve overcome the pain point of ammonia being difficult to burn quickly and put the fuel to use in the passenger car industry,” said GAC research and development (R&D) engineer Qi Hongzhong to Autocar.

    At its 2023 Tech Day, GAC Group also showed off a version of its E9 people mover with a 2.0-litre hydrogen hybrid combustion engine.

    The GAC hydrogen hybrid combustion engine in the E9 is claimed to consume less than 1.4kg of hydrogen over 100km, with a claimed range of almost 600km according to an undisclosed testing cycle.

    As previously reported, Toyota is also exploring hydrogen-combustion technology. There is the 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine in the Toyota GR Yaris concept and Corolla Cross concept, as well as the Yamaha-developed 5.0-litre V8.

    That’s in addition to its existing work with hydrogen fuel-cell (FCEV) technology, which other automakers like Volkswagen and Tesla have sworn against.

    At this stage it’s unclear if liquid ammonia-combustion engines will ever take off as a viable alternative to petrol or diesel in passenger vehicles.

    Jack Quick

    Jack Quick is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne. Jack studied journalism and photography at Deakin University in Burwood, and previously represented the university in dance nationally. In his spare time, he loves to pump Charli XCX and play a bit of Grand Theft Auto. He’s also the proud owner of a blue, manual 2020 Suzuki Jimny.

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