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Hydrogen is a means to chemically store energy. It can be used to buffer energy in a society increasingly relying on renewable but intermittent energy or as an energy vector for sustainable transportation. It is also attractive for its potential to power vehicles with (near-) zero tailpipe emissions. The use of hydrogen as an energy carrier for transport applications is mostly associated with fuel cells. However, hydrogen can also be used in an internal combustion engine (ICE). When converted to or designed for hydrogen operation, an ICE can attain high power output, high efficiency and ultra low emissions. Also, because of the possibility of bi-fuel operation, the hydrogen engine can act as an accelerator for building up a hydrogen infrastructure. The properties of hydrogen are quite different from the presently used hydrocarbon fuels, which is reflected in the design and operation of a hydrogen fueled ICE (H2ICE). These characteristics also result in more flexibility in engine control strategies and thus more routes for engine optimization. This article describes the most characteristic features of H 2ICEs, the current state of H 2ICE research and demonstration, and the future prospects.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2012