Brussels, 12 Jul 2005
As scientists around the world seek to advance new hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, European researchers are providing leadership in the production and marketing of corresponding systems and components.
Europeans are among the most environmentally concerned people in the world. As such, there is a real chance for Europe to play a leading role in the emerging hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Now widely expected to usher in a new era in global energy production, hydrogen is the third most abundant element on Earth and it can be produced using any kind of solar or geothermal power.
As a renewable and carbon-free energy source, hydrogen produces no CO2 during combustion. It is also found in many organic compounds, notably in the hydrocarbons that make up many of our current fuels, such as petrol, natural gas, methanol, and propane.
Europe leading the way
HyICE (Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine), launched in January 2004, is a three-year European initiative aimed at contributing to the development of a clean and economical hydrogen fuelled automobile engine.
HyICE coordinator Claudia Scheiderer, of BMW's Research and Technology Group, says, "A significant amount of research and development remains to be carried out before the hydrogen economy can become a reality. And the conventional internal combustion engine, even after more than 100 years of service, has not necessarily outlived its usefulness." Indeed, says Scheiderer, the internal combustion engine is particularly well suited as a transition technology, featuring high power density, relatively low cost and, because it can use different fuels, the potential for rapid integration into mass-market hydrogen vehicles.
A high-tech combination
By taking the combustion engine as its starting point, the HyICE project is applying a well-developed technology to the requirements of the future without demanding profound changes in the organisational structures of automotive manufacturers. At the same time its aims to offer consumers a product with similar characteristics to those of conventional automobiles.
"The ultimate goal," says Sheiderer, "is to work out an engine concept which has the potential to beat both gasoline and diesel engines with respect to power density and efficiency at reasonable costs. In the range of high-power vehicles, where hydrogen internal combustion engines can deliver even higher efficiency, HyICE technologies may present not just an intermediate, but also a long-term solution."
The European Automotive Industry's pre-competitive research organisation, EUCAR, considers the HyICE project to be complementary to other projects in the EU's 'fuel and power train' cluster, covering the crucial elements of conventional power train technologies (fuel injection, ignition and control).
http:///europa.eu.int/comm/dg s/research/i ndex_en.html
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