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HyICE Concludes, Results in Optimized Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine

High-pressure direct injection hydrogen mixture formation. Click to enlarge.

Ten European partners have completed the HyICE project—Optimization of the Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine—three years after the project first began. This initiative, promoted by the EU Commission, has resulted in a 100 kW per liter displacement combustion engine optimized for hydrogen fuel, with benefits in terms of performance and costs.

The project team consisted of companies from the automotive industry, their supplier companies and two Universities. This project, which was coordinated by BMW Group Research and Technology, developed two concepts of mixture formation, which were approved on engines for passenger cars as well as for city buses. The necessary key components were also developed.

In addition, relevant simulation tools have been adopted to hydrogen combustion to support the development process of future production engines. Furthermore, the top European hydrogen experts shared their findings on a regular basis with researchers from the US Department of Energy. This makes HyICE the first project of its kind within the EU Commission.

Researchers concentrated exclusively on hydrogen as a fuel and were thus able to fully utilize its specific properties. Up until now, hydrogen combustion engines were designed for both gasoline and hydrogen usage due to missing hydrogen infrastructure. The sole hydrogen focus allows the technology to be optimized.

Cryogenic port injection hydrogen mixture formation. Click to enlarge.

Graz University of Technology, Hoerbiger Valve Tec, MAN Nutzfahrzeuge, Volvo Technology and BMW Group Research and Technology developed and tested two concepts of mixture formation for this purpose: direct injection at 10-200 bar and cryogenic port injection at ~ -200°C. In both methods performance was doubled while consumption was reduced.

Together with BMW Group Research and Technology, the Swedish company Mecel Engine Systems developed an ignition system which is accurately tailored to the far-reaching flammability limits of hydrogen. This has increased efficiency and reduced consumption.

In order to make the properties of hydrogen more transparent for future series developments, the IFP (French Institut Français du Petrole) and the German University of the Federal Armed Forces developed two simulation models for hydrogen combustion in the cylinder. Using the optical engine from the Graz University of Technology, the researchers succeeded in observing the combustion behavior of hydrogen and checking the computer-aided calculation models. These models were then incorporated into the commercial calculation tool Ansys CFX, developed by Ansys Germany.

To extract the maximum benefit out of all efforts made at both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the Ford Research Center in Aachen built the transatlantic bridges and coordinated the sharing of findings between the EU researchers and the US hydrogen specialists. Alongside HyICE, the US Department of Energy is also promoting a hydrogen engine project initiated by Ford (USA). It has commissioned two National Laboratories in Illinois and California, as well as North American Universities to carry out this work.

At the recent Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine conference organized by WestStart-CALSTART and the Federal Transit Administration, Robert Natkin of Ford’s H2ICE Project noted that Ford is finding that using a next-generation hydrogen-internal combustion engine in a hybrid platform can deliver overall powertrain efficiency comparable to that of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle platform.



Ford is finding that using a next-generation hydrogen-internal combustion engine in a hybrid platform can deliver overall powertrain efficiency comparable to that of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle platform.

At a fraction of the cost, I would guess...


Even though the internal combustion engine has lower efficiency than fuel cell does, the car makers are still sticking with the combustion engine cuz it can generate more power. I know, for past 4-5 years of research, car makers have only managed to increase the power of fuel cell by 20~30hp. But you can increase power in combustion engine more easily and it even gets easier with a help of turbocharger(and also gets better efficiency)

beside, I can't imagine Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches having a bunch of circuit board under the hood...that's just i guess internal combustion engine would never die...


OK. Fuel cells work satisfactory only on hydrogen. E85 could be explained by CAFÉ loophole. What’s the catch with H2 ICE? Why so many respectable companies wasting their money on this dubious (to be polite) venture?


"Why so many respectable companies wasting their money on this dubious (to be polite) venture?"

Actually, it was EU taxpayer money. The automakers aren't quite that stupid.


ou did read the aeticle didnt you people? They DOUBLED performance while oowering fuel consumption...

That means the engine is massively more fuel eff then a gas engine.


ou did read the aeticle didnt you people? They DOUBLED performance while oowering fuel consumption...

That means the engine is massively more fuel eff then a gas engine.

How many miles per fuel dollar are they getting?


Andrey, good point.

Shaun Williams

I thought JN2 already answered that; much less cost.

Get some good PR from the Hydrogen Hoax for a fraction of the investment of fool cell technology.

(I might add that I think hydrogen will have its decade but not now, particularly at the expense of PHEV and BEV battery research investment.)


God bless 'em they still think the ICE is a viable device and we all know it isn't because they seem to be stuck at no better than 25 to 30% efficiency. Does anyone know of a more efficient production ICE that is better than 30%? And, if so how did they do it?
You know if we could increase the ICE by 20% we could easily meet the goal of not depending on foreign oil.


Just about every ICE out there has better than 30% peak efficiency. Unfortunately pumping and friction losses really take a chunk out of that during most operation, and the only vehicles I can think of that have greater than 30% efficiency most of the time would be the Prius and some diesels, pretty much because Toyota addressed gasoline engine pumping losses by way of an atkinson'ish cycle engine, CVT, and minimization of low load operation via the electric component of the drive train. Diesels don't have pumping losses in the same way gasoline vehicles do (less than an atmosphere of pressure from a small intake charge), and benefit from slightly higher thermal efficiency.



Cummins unveiled heavy truck 2007 emission compliant diesel engine with peak brake thermal efficiency of 45%:

This is probably close to the limit thermal efficiency for engine of such class. 50% would almost certainly be a limit. And yes, it is peak thermal efficiency, in average driving cycle efficiency would be much less. Light duty diesel engines are much less efficient, and average duty cycle for light duty diesels is way lower.

Gasoline engines, as you pointed out, are less efficient to begin with, and suffer much higher efficiency losses in average driving cycle then diesel engines.

The trick with hybrids is that hybrid drivetrain allows higher peak efficiency (due to Atkinson cycle) for gasoline engine, and keeps engine practically all the time to in most efficient mode.


Wow...100 kilowatts per liter translates to 134 horsepower per liter...pretty amazing!

Rafael Seidl

Lad -

diesel engines feature peak efficiencies of 42-52% (passenger car engines are at the bottom of that range). However, for real-world fuel economy, peak efficiency is not relevant in LDV applications. What matters is fuel consumption in the duty cycle, which is heavily skewed toward part load. Gasoline engines far particularly badly in part load because they have to throttle the intake in order to get the density of the fresh charge down. Only then will the mass of the fresh charge yield a stoichiometric mixture with the small amount of fuel injected and permit the three-way catalyst to work its magic.

Because it burns so quickly, hydrogen can be ignited in very lean mixtures which produce very little NOx to begin with. That means that an engine optimized for hydrogen use does not need to throttle airflow anything like as severely in part load and still meet emissions standards.

The other noteworthy development here is the cryogenic direct injection of fuel, which cools the fresh charge during the compression stroke. Hydrogen is not particularly prone to knocking anyhow, but this internal cooling should permit even higher compression ratios.

Much of what has been learned in the HyICE project could be applied to engines running on LNG fuel, which is a LOT easier - read: cheaper - to procure given that LNG terminals are sprouting up everywhere. Also, natural gas becomes liquid at ~110K, whereas hydrogen requires ~20K at atmospheric pressure, i.e. 5 times as cold. Therefore, the infrastructure required to produce and store LNG is cheaper.

Either way, cryogenic tanks will remain limited to special niche applications because fuel needs to be boiled off continuously to prevent a dangerous buildup of pressure.

John Schreiber

You have intelligently addressed how a better fuel can improve ICE efficiency. Bruce Crower's six stroke idea ( of a direct injection water cooling stroke) may be a way to pick up some energy from cooling system loss. Plus others are working on improving the inefficiencies inherent in conventional crankshaft/rod mechanics.


Using Electrolyzed water with ICE engine used as a generator for a series electric. If we want to get rid of gas company terrorism and control then using your current technology engines, current technology batteries and water from your house seems to make the most sense.
It is the cheapest thing to do and fastest way to get the world off oil. A local convenience store can sell you the electrolyzed water. Selling you diesel, CNG or other fuels could be more difficult and takes a Fossil fuel infrastructure to get it to you.
If the electricity was made from renewable sources it would be utopia.

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