Automaker GAC unveils world's first ammonia-powered engine for cars

The 2.0-liter engine can produce 120 kilowatts of electricity and 90 percent less carbon emissions.
Jijo Malayil
Concept image of modern car
Concept image of modern car


In the search for solutions to further sustainable mobility, China's Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (GAC) has introduced an engine that runs on Ammonia, which can add to the list of greener solutions like electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells, reported Bloomberg.

The motor was unveiled at the firm's annual technology event in Beijing along with an eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) called the Gove.

The newly released motor, aimed for use in passenger vehicles, harnesses ammonia, a clean and readily available fuel source, as its primary energy source. This may represent a significant step toward combatting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

“We’ve overcome the pain point of ammonia being difficult to burn quickly and put the fuel to use in the passenger car industry. Its value to society and for commercial uses are worth anticipating,” said Qi Hongzhong from GAC’s research and development while speaking to reporters at the event.

According to GAC, it has created a 2.0-liter engine that can safely and effectively burn liquid ammonia, producing 120 kilowatts of electricity and 90 percent less carbon emissions than other fuels.

Significant challenges associated with using Ammonia

Complexities in using ammonia as a fuel source has led to such efforts being directed towards industries such as trucking and shipping rather than passenger vehicles like cars.

According to Bloomberg, this focus stems from the fact that these industries are better equipped to handle the challenges associated with this toxic substance. Established safety protocols and systems are already in place in sectors like commercial shipping, where ammonia has been extensively transported for years as a crucial component in fertilizer production.

Ammonia as an alternative fuel source has gained attention in various industries, including marine engines and fuel cells for vehicles. In May, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co.'s successful delivery of an ammonia fuel supply system for marine engines showed progress in adopting this fuel. Furthermore, startups like Amogy Inc. are exploring innovative approaches that involve converting ammonia to hydrogen before using it in fuel cells to power vehicles.

Despite the potential benefits of ammonia as a fuel, several challenges hinder its widespread adoption in passenger cars. Ammonia is a hazardous chemical that requires careful storage, transportation, and dispensing infrastructure. Ensuring safe handling practices and implementing suitable safety measures is crucial.

In comparison, major automakers are currently focusing on electrifying vehicles, primarily through battery electric vehicles (BEVs). The development of electric vehicle technology has gained significant momentum, with substantial investments in battery technology, charging infrastructure, and range improvement. The focus on electrification is driven by the increasing availability of renewable energy sources and the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Further research and development to overcome these barriers and make ammonia a practical fuel option for passenger vehicles efforts are nee. Though the automotive industry primarily focuses on electric vehicle technologies, ongoing advancements in technology and concerted efforts from various stakeholders could pave the way for ammonia as a viable fuel option in the future.