Ammonia fueled sports car: Marangoni Toyota GT86 Eco Explorer

Marangoni Toyota GT86 Eco Explorer

The Marangoni Toyota GT86 Eco Explorer

A new sports car that uses ammonia fuel is touring the motor shows of Europe.

The Marangoni Toyota GT-86 Eco-Explorer is an ammonia / gasoline hybrid, designed by Italian tyre-maker Marangoni, which claims 111 miles of zero-emission driving from one tank of ammonia.

The Eco Explorer was first shown at the Geneva Motor Show (March 7-17) in Switzerland, and then at the Gadget Show Live in the UK (April 3-7) and Top Marques in Monaco (April 18-21). Its next stop is Tuning World Bodensee in Friedrichshafen, Germany (May 9-12).

From Marangoni’s Eco Explorer microsite, which features extensive photographs and an atmospheric video:

“The GT86-R Marangoni has been fitted with the NH3 engine system, offering dual fuel supply. The car can in fact run on petrol, as originally equipped, or  use ammonia stored in a separate tank.”

From Marangoni’s press release:

One litre of ammonia costs just 20 cents, and the 30 litres that the Toyota GT86-R tank can hold are enough to travel around 180 km. At engine speeds up to 2,800 rpm, the car can be fuelled on ammonia alone, then switching to direct injection and petrol at higher engine loads. Consequently, for city driving the car can almost completely run on ammonia. Due to the high energy output of ammonia the original and exciting performance potential of the GT 86 is maintained.

The NH3 design has been developed by Bigas International, a company that for more than 40 years has been focusing on the use of alternative energy sources. The system uses a special pressure reducer, called RI21JE, and a special control unit to make sure that all safety and reliability requirements involving the use of ammonia are met. This system completely eliminates fine dust particle emissions and significantly reduces CO2 emissions. The trials completed by BIGAS International as part of the Savia project analysed every aspect relating to compliance with current safety and pollution standards, testing the effectiveness of the solutions adopted on different prototypes over extended periods.

The Eco Explorer may be the most widely publicized vehicle to come out of the SAVIA project, a public/private initiative in Italy, but another interesting project under development is a range-extender for electric hybrid vehicles, using ammonia for its carbon-free liquid fuel.

The range-extender electric hybrid project uses a garbage truck as its development vehicle (the Effedi Gasolone 35, diesel model), and for this they also developed a safety system: plug-and-play sensor modules that monitor levels of ammonia and other emissions around the cockpit area, and at the fuel tank, catalytic reactor, and tail pipe.

SAVIA (Sistema di Alimentazione di Veicoli ad Idrogeno ed Ammoniaca, translates as Vehicle Power Systems from Hydrogen and Ammonia) includes project leader Pont-Tech (who provide a one-page project summary [PDF]), with partners EDI – Progetti & Sviluppo, Acta Energy (who are also partners in Project Alkammonia), BIGAS, University of Pisa, and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, with co-funding from Regione Toscana.

The Marangoni Eco Explorer was reviewed in the UK, including this test drive review (PDF) from AutoExpress.co.uk:

By fitting an LPG tank under the boot that allows the GT 86 to be run on compressed ammonia, Marangoni claims to have given it a CO2-free range of 111 miles … The good news is that, despite the additional weight, the Eco Explorer is still just as enjoyable to drive as a standard GT 86, so on track the agile chassis and responsive steering make it great fun. Plus, the engine now revs quicker and sounds much better.

VERDICT: As a speculative look into the future of fuels, the Eco Explorer is an interesting experiment. But it works better as a glimpse of what a more powerful GT 86 could be like. The performance upgrades and those wide tyres haven’t spoiled the superbly balanced chassis, and even though the stiffer ride won’t suit everybody, this is still an utterly fantastic car to drive.

Marangoni’s UK rep Chris Caines describes the driving experience:

Other mentions in the UK press included the Birmingham Mail and The Observer.

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9 responses to “Ammonia fueled sports car: Marangoni Toyota GT86 Eco Explorer

  1. Very interesting line of applied research. Could revolutionize the hybrid car paradigm, and oil economics as well.

  2. Pingback: Toyota’s CO2-free ammonia sports car | Demand CO2-free gasoline..it exists now (NH3).

  3. So where/how do you get compressed ammonia? Is there engine modifications? I am guessing that maybe it is similar to a propane type of conversion?

    • Hi Janice,

      Ammonia is available almost everywhere, generally through agricultural or industrial suppliers. For example, in the US, companies like JR Simplot distributes it to farmers, and companies like Airgas supply small tanks for industrial use. “Compressed” ammonia is standard – that’s how it comes – but we’re talking about low pressures: I think Airgas’s ammonia tanks are pressurized at 114psi (compare that to their hydrogen tanks pressurized at 2,000-2,400 psi).

      Commercial ammonia engines are only just starting to be demonstrated, so the infrastructure for ammonia cars, like filling stations, doesn’t exist … yet. In Iowa alone there are about 800 ammonia filling stations, so there is plenty of existing, proven infrastructure that could be adapted and expanded for ammonia vehicles. The fueling process itself will be similar to how you’d refill a tank with propane: it would be stored in mildly pressurized tanks, and it would be transferred into a vehicle’s fuel tank as a liquid. As of today there are over 2,600 commercial propane fueling stations across the US.

      Engine modifications would be required. These would be similar to propane conversions, but different …

      Cracker: Ammonia conversions might install an on-board cracker. This is a device that goes between the fuel tank and the engine. It takes some of the ammonia fuel and breaks the nitrogen-hydrogen bonds to produce pure nitrogen and hydrogen. The hydrogen then mixes back in with the ammonia fuel, and this allows the ammonia to burn much more efficiently than it would on its own. (This cracker is the same technology that would allow you to use ammonia to fuel a hydrogen car, either using an internal combustion engine or a fuel cell).

      Components: Ammonia corrodes certain metals – copper, zinc, silver – so any components containing these metals or their alloys, like brass, would need to be replaced.

      Safety: Ammonia is very smelly, which is a great early warning system: if there’s even a small leak, you’ll know about it. More importantly, ammonia is an inhalation hazard, so any engine conversion will need to be absolutely safe and leak-free.

      Tuning: Ammonia doesn’t burn in the same way as gasoline or diesel, so engine controls could be introduced or adjusted to optimize the engine. You’d want to ensure that the combustion was stochiometric – meaning that exactly the right amounts of fuel and air combust to produce absolutely clean emissions of pure nitrogen and pure water (ie: 4[NH3] + 3[O2] –> 2[N2] + 6[H2O]) because you wouldn’t want either ammonia or partially combusted ammonia (NOx), coming out of your tailpipe.

      Different engine developers are working on different kinds of vehicles – some on an ammonia / gasoline dual fuel, like the Marangoni Eco Explorer, some are working on pure ammonia engines, some on spark ignitions, some on compression ignitions. There have been some successful conversions and demonstration projects, and a number of companies who might be capable of offering conversion services when there’s sufficient demand (see here and here and here and here and here).

  4. Thanks for the tech overview Trevor! It seems like this will be a better way to go than the HHO engine kits currently available.

  5. Pingback: Brilliant teen publishes paper on saving the climate with ammonia-fueled cars | Grist

  6. Pingback: Korean ammonia NH3 car to Slash CO2 and Toxic Air | The Free

  7. GreenNH3 has a machine which makes NH3 from air and water, $2/ gal patent issued July 15 2014. If you know someone that can help take this technology forward pls contact GreenNH3.

  8. Thank-You Jim !!! GreenNH3 Has A Patented Machine (Issued July 15 2014) Which Makes NH3 From Air and Water At $2.00 A Gallon !!! Looking For Partners To Forward This Technology !!! http://www.greennh3.com !!! Please Contact John Pierce Director Of Business Development At 647-726-5463 !!!

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