Local researchers build car that runs on ammonia

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Local researchers build car that runs on ammonia

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said yesterday the Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER) has developed a vehicle that can run partly on ammonia, which would reduce emissions.

According to the ministry, the vehicle uses a mixture of 70 percent liquefied ammonia and 30 percent gasoline. Since ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, the by-products are benign nitrogen and water.

The ministry said the fuel reduces a car’s emissions of carbon dioxide by 70 percent.

The ministry also said that if the technology was used in 20 percent of the vehicles in Korea, it could cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 10.6 million tons. As of the first quarter, Korea had a total of 19 million vehicles registered.

The team that developed the car said it started the project in December 2011 and spent about 1 billion won ($887,000). It adapted some auto parts and created some from scratch.

The team had to use fuel pumps and lines made of Teflon or stainless steel because ammonia corrodes rubber, plastic and copper.

The team said that an ammonia-fueled car is more efficient than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles because the entire engine system doesn’t have to be changed. Hyundai Motor, the nation’s largest automaker, is currently mass producing a hydrogen fuel cell model, the ix35.

The team said ammonia isn’t explosive like gasoline and is easy to transport and store compare to hydrogen.

The team also said it is working on a cheaper way of producing ammonia electrochemically. The electricity will be coming from renewable energy such as solar or wind power, so it will reduce production costs compared to the Haber-Bosch Process, the standard way of producing ammonia, which requires high pressure and temperature.

“The project intended to cope with climate change and the exhaustion of fossil fuels in the future,” Kim Jong-nam, the head of the team at KIER, said. “If we can get ammonia from renewable energy, that means we get transportation fuel from nature forever.”

Kim said that developing a vehicle that can run on 100 percent ammonia is possible, but commercialization of ammonia-fueled vehicles will take some time.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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