1996-02-01

Evaluation of the Hydrogen-Fueled Rotary Engine for Hybrid Vehicle Applications 960232

The hydrogen-fueled engine has been identified as a viable power unit for ultra-low emission senes-hybrid vehicles The absence of carbon in hydrogen fuel eliminates exhaust emissions of CO, CO2, and hydrocarbons, with the exception of small contributions from the combustion of lubricating oil Thus, the only regulated emission of a hydrogen-fueled engine is NOx, and the engine may be optimized to minimize NOx since the usual constraint of the NOx -hydrocarbon trade-off is not applicable Hydrogen-fueled homogeneous charge piston engines have, however, generally suffered from a variety of combustion difficulties, most notably a proclivity to ignition on hot surfaces such as exhaust valves, spark plug electrodes and deposits on combustion chamber walls The Wankel engine is particularly well suited to the use of hydrogen fuel, since its design minimizes most of the combustion difficulties
In order to evaluate the possibilities offered by the hydrogen fueled rotary engine, dynamometer tests were conducted with a small (2 2kW) Wankel engine fueled with hydrogen Preliminary results show an absence of the combustion difficulties present with hydrogen-fueled homogenous charge piston engines The engine was operated unthrottled and power output was controlled by quality governing, i.e. by varying the fuel-air equivalence ratio on the lean side of stoichiometric The ability to operate with quality governing is made possible by the wide flammability limits of hydrogen-air mixtures NOx emissions are on the order of 5 ppm for power outputs up to 70% of the maximum attainable on hydrogen fuel Thus, by operating with very lean mixtures, which effectively derates the engine, very low NOx emissions can be achieved
Since the rotary engine has a characteristically high power to weight ratio and a small volume per unit power compared to the piston engine, operating a rotary engine on hydrogen and derating the power output could yield an engine with extremely low emissions which still has weight and volume characteristics comparable to a gasoline-fueled piston engine Finally, since engine weight and volume affect vehicle design, and consequently in-use vehicle power requirements, those factors, as well as engine efficiency, must be taken into account in evaluating overall hybnd vehicle efficiency

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