Will Green Ammonia Power Your Future Car Instead of Batteries?

Green Ammonia Offers Several Key Advantages that May Make it a Better Choice than Electric Power

In this ProQuip In The Mix Blog, we take a closer look at green ammonia and its potential use as a fuel source.

When Green Ammonia is introduced into a conversation, the first question typically is, “What is green ammonia?” Green ammonia is a form of ammonia that uses a more environmentally-friendly production process including alternative, renewable (i.e., non carbon-based) energy sources.

The next question is, “What is ammonia?” Most know that it can be used as a household cleaning agent, but few know its chemical composition (hydrogen and atmospheric nitrogen – NH3 – which are combined under pressure).

The History of Ammonia

The world’s booming population growth in the early 1900s created significant stress on farmers to increase production. Unfortunately, the most common fertilizers in use at the time – animal waste and natural nitrates – were in limited supply. A new fertilizer that could be mass-produced was needed. Ammonia was the solution.

Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, a pair of German chemists, developed the process to form ammonia under pressure in 1908. Farmers began using ammonia as a fertilizer, and the world’s food production dramatically increased. As a result, many recognize the Haber-Bosch process as one of the most important industrial chemical reactions in history (Haber won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for it). The Germans’ process is still responsible for nearly all the world’s ammonia. It’s also used to produce derivatives like urea and ammonium nitrate (CEN).

The Advantages of Green Ammonia Powered Cars vs Electric Cars

So the big question is can green ammonia be used to run our automobiles or other forms of transportation?  Green ammonia powered-cars have several advantages over those that are powered by electricity. These include:

  • No lithium-ion battery: Electric cars have large, heavy, typically lithium-Ion (and sometimes nickel-metal hydride) batteries that have lengthy charge cycles and limited range (although both are improving). They also use dangerous high voltages, have been known to catch fire and present recycling challenges when they reach the end of their lifecycle. Human exposure to lithium (sitting on them in the case of an electric vehicle) also has several potential health risks.
  • No harmful emissions: The low temperature combustion of green ammonia in a car engine produces nitrogen and water.
  • Net-zero production facilities: Green ammonia is produced in facilities powered by alternative energy sources, not carbon-based fossil fuels.

Disadvantages of Green Ammonia to Power Cars

There are also several disadvantages to using green ammonia as a fuel source for cars. These include:

  • Low temperature combustion: As a low temperature combustion fuel, green ammonia doesn’t produce enough energy for ignition, operation at low engine loads and/or high engine speed. A combustion promoter such as gasoline, hydrogen, diesel, etc. is needed to perform these functions.
  • Significant market entry barriers: Like most emerging technologies, green ammonia has to climb many mountains to succeed (e.g., government support, investor interest, consumer acceptance).
  • High initial production costs: Some estimate it will initially cost 2-4 times as much to produce green ammonia as conventional ammonia. Among other things, factories need to be built, distribution channels/infrastructure need to be created, and consumer demand needs to be developed. Oh, and cars need engines and fuel systems designed for ammonia and technicians capable of repairing them.
  • Ammonia is hazardous: Like lithium, ammonia is dangerous to humans and is caustic in high concentrations. This means it is able to burn or corrode organic tissue by chemical action (Oxford Languages).

So, Will Green Ammonia Supplant Electricity as the Preferred Car Fuel of the Future?

At this point, there is no clear answer to this question. However, current market dynamics heavily favor electric cars over those powered by green ammonia (and other alternative fuels). The car industry is poised to go completely electric over the next several decades. The momentum for this change is significant.

Could things change? Absolutely. There are many examples of flip-flops in market position among emerging technologies. The most well-known is probably Betamax vs VHS home video recording technology. The early market front runner didn’t win the race.

For More Information

ProQuip tank agitators have been used in fertilizer production and a wide variety of other chemical manufacturing processes for over five decades. For more information on ProQuip mixing solutions, email applications@proquipinc.com or call us at 330-468-1850.

Sources: CEN, The Fertilizer Institute, New Jersey Department of Health, New Atlas