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Ammonia (NH3) is a carbon-free hydrogen (H2) carrier, which enables liquid-phase H2 storage and transport under mild conditions. Although the concept of NH3-to-H­2 has been frequently proposed, the practical application of NH3 as the energy source for H2 power automotive systems is rarely reported. To close the gap between NH3 supply and H2 utilization, we demonstrated an NH3-powered fuel cell electric golf cart as a proof of concept. The integration of NH3 cracker (installed with catalyst), gas purifier, fuel cell, and energy management system formed a successful powertrain that could thrust a golf cart into motion. The catalytic performance of both nickel (Ni) and iron (Fe)-based catalysts was measured (cracker gas evolution monitored by HPR-20 EGA, Hiden), and the optimal catalyst demonstrated a > 99.9% NH3 conversion at 600 ℃. The gas purifier was confirmed to be capable of removing the residual NH3 for a proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC). The fuel cell, when powered by the cracked and purified gas mixture, revealed comparable performance and power output as compared with the pre-mixed fuel gas mixture (75%H2/25%N2), demonstrating the feasibility of the whole system. The demonstrated NH3-powered fuel cell prototype with an energy level of 17.5 kWh gives total system-specific energy of 379.4 Wh/kg. When equipped with 15 kg NH3, the integrated power system is expected to meet the US Department of Energy’s 2020 gravimetric hydrogen capacity target for onboard automotive hydrogen storage systems. During the operation, only N2 and water are generated in the chemical processes of the system and emitted into the atmosphere, demonstrating that this power-generating technology is clean and carbon-free. Our proof-of-concept prototype represents an innovative demonstration of the NH3-powered fuel cell vehicle system, giving rise to a future reference and inspiration for the practical developments of NH3-based H2 fuel applications.


Project summary by: Molly Meng-Jung Li, Department of Applied Physics, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong, China

Paper Reference: “From lab to practical: An Ammonia-powered fuel cell electric golf cart system” Chemical Engineering Journal (2023) 452, Part 2, 139390

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