Well, I did it again. Drove the Smart Car from Bakersfield CA to Kansas City MO to see the anhydrorous ammonia hot rod, now known as the "NH3 Roadster."
This monster is fitted with a compacted graphite 572 c.i. V8 from Eliminator Products.
Custom-built, double-wall fuel tank. Is it legal? Ha! No state DOT recognizes ammonia as a fuel. Aside from the USDA, neither do the Feds. Yet investment banker Matthew Simmons said at the conference that homemade ammonia fuel may be the only way we can escape the disaster looming from Peak Oil.
We all get our power out of hydrogen, regardless of what fuel we use. Ammonia has the same energy density of butane - but with zero carbon emissions. The idea is to use wind power to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen, and separate nitrogen from air, then dump the oxygen and heat the nitrogen and hydrogen in a furnace with a catalyst of iron to combine them into anhydrous ammonia.
In the car (or farm tractor or lobster boat) the ammonia runs through a different cartalyst to crack the NH3 molecule and release the hydrogen which is burned in the (hydrogen) spark engine. The nitrogen is released into the air, which is 80% nitrogen anyway. As you can see from the chart, ammonia delivers almost the same ammount of power as gasoline or diesel. Hence the giant engine should cream just about anything. Pink slips, anyone?
This is all cutting-edge stuff. They're being real careful not to burn the pistons, as hydrogen is wont to do, and will start engine testing - probably by now in Iowa.
I was privileged to meet Michael Bowery, who built the roadster with Ted Hollinger.
Here's his story:
Building the world’s first 100% pure ammonia engine had rather humble beginnings. As the owner of Eliminator Performance Products, we manufacture blocks and cylinder heads for performance and industrial engines. Upon a sales call to Hydrogen Engine Center
over 3 years ago, I met Ted Hollinger. Ted was quite busy getting prepared for the 2006 Ammonia Conference but emailed me the Material Neutral Process diagram he was working on.
Over the next year, I looked at the chemical equation pessimistically, much like the illusion of walking up the eternal staircase. But over the following year Ted persisted to pressure this nuclear engineer into showing the world that NH3 could be used in an internal combustion engine. His vision was to showpiece the NH3 engine in a 1923 T-bucket Roadster. A vehicle where everything is exposed and nothing can be hidden. About a year ago, I decided to make this vision a reality.
After researching the internet, I gave Paul McCann of Barely Street Legal
, in Oklahoma City a call. I could only imagine what his thoughts were, when I told him how this car was going to be fueled! Paul has done numerous custom built vehicles over the years and has an impeccable eye for detail. Paul was excited to work on this project and began working right away.
The power plant for the NH3 Roadster is based on an Eliminator compacted graphite block and two Eliminator compacted graphite cylinder heads. Since Folks Auto Machine in Norman, Oklahoma has produced over 4000 industrial engines using Eliminator products, George Folks agreed to build the engine.
About five months into the project the wheels came off the cart! After trying repeatedly to find a pilot fuel to burn the NH3, we came up empty. I looked at H2O electrolyzers, NH3 electrolyzers and hydroxy, but all appeared to be unproven or required a theoretically huge unit for this application. As a result, the NH3 Roadster went into “mothballs” for about two months.
Moral support came in the form of a phone call from John Holbrook. John recommended Ted and I talk with his business partner Jason Ganley, for a potential solution using ammonia cracking. Ted, Jason and I got together almost a month later and did a number of tests to prove the use of ammonia cracker in the NH3 Roadster. Things appeared to be on track again!
Ted Hollinger and Scott Wille worked to pre-wire the NH3 Roadster as much as possible for the sophisticated Oxx Boxx controller by HEC. The pre-wiring was done before Barely Street Legal could pick it up, complete the paint job and mount all the equipment.
The fuel tank was designed and fabricated by Steve Boergert, of Mackinaw Associates
in Southfield, Michigan. The 8 gallon NH3 fuel tank is designed to meet DOT transportation standards and has double wall construction with a bullet-proof external shell.
The intake manifold was modified to include fuel injection rails and position the injectors at the correct angle. This was no easy task, but thanks to Jon Jamison of Jamison Equipment
in Emmetsburg, Iowa the intake came out perfect!
Jason, Ted and I designed the ammonia cracker for the NH3 Roadster with Engineering and CAD support performed by Mark Bowery at IA Engineering
of Rochester, Michigan. Mark also worked with me to solve the cracker ‘packaging issues’ identified throughout the manufacturing and machining process. Vince Carty of North Star Enterprise in Riley Twp, Michigan did an absolutely fantastic job welding and machining the cracker; what a work of art! Special thanks to Vince and Mark for designing and manufacturing the cracker under such a tight schedule.
The safety control, control panel design, cracker wiring, and the plumbing process including the Closed Loop Temperature Prep-Tank were the last parts I had to design for the NH3 Roadster. This proved to be a mental challenge, since everything had to be connected together with off-the-shelf items except the tank, which was manufactured by Barely Street Legal. Also, a special thanks to Paul and Paul Jr. for trailering the NH3 Roadster back and forth from Oklahoma City to Algona, Iowa twice! Also, for “jumping through hoops” the last few weeks, as parts were shipped overnight to Barely Street Legal on a daily basis.
Final wiring was completed by Scott and Tom, while Tom Daly programmed the Oxx Boxx controller supplied by Hydrogen Engine Center.
Visit again soon photos of the entire project and a short video of the vehicle.
(A gallery of early photos during development of the vehicle frame are available at this link http://www.eliminatorproducts.com/ga....aspx?cat_id=1
Michael S. Bowery
News Item from Eliminator
Eliminator Performance Products
NH3 Roadster owner/builder
Hydrogen Engine Center Announces a 9.3L Compacted Graphite Iron Engine - HEC and Eliminator Performance Products Combine Capabilities Hydrogen Engine Center October 6, 2009
Performance of a Commercial Internal Combustion Engine on Ammonia Fuel Ted Hollinger
Comparative Quantitative Risk Analysis of Motor Gasoline, LPG, and Anhydrous Ammonia as an Automotive Fuel
Quest Consultants June 17, 2009
Potential Roles of Ammonia in a Hydrogen Economy
US Department of Energy George Thomas and George Parks 2006
Emporia, Kansas. The little car got several 55 MPG tanks on the 3000+ mile round-trip. I ran 45 psi in the tires and premium in the engine. Thanks to the ethanol bust in the Midwest, where a lot of the silo towns looked like the Dust Bowl, some of the premium was ethanol-free and gave fantastic mileage - even at 65 mph. This can happen when no ethanol is available at the refinery rack, where it is mixed with gasoline.
The bird froze.
Death Valley National Park. Avoid this station. Albuquerque NM to Kingman AZ cost $20.
If you missed it, here's the link to my trip towing a Shandong Pioneer from Chicago
to southern California with the incredible Smart Car.