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: