Friday, April 12, 2013

Aston Martin to greenwash itself at 24 Hours of Nürburgring with hydrogen powered race car

British sports car maker Aston Martin is planning to take on the 41st ADAC Zurich 24 Hours of Nürburgring in Germany -- with a hydrogen powered car.  The Aston Martin Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S, based on the company's new four-seater Rapide S sports car, will become the first hydrogen-powered car to compete in an international event as well as the first zero CO2 emissions sports car to complete a race pace lap at the Nürburgring 24-hour race.

Aston Martin Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S

Let's not let "hydrogen race car" make us jump too quickly to the assumption that we're dealing with a fuel cell car.  Instead, what Aston Martin has done is to developed a prototype twin turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 engine that is capable of running on pure gasoline, pure gaseous hydrogen, or a blend of both. 

The Hybrid Hydrogen race car, as they're calling it, is meant to showcase Aston Martin's commitment to engineering innovation.

It takes some careful reading of the press release to tease this out - but the Hybrid Hydrogen is going to run in hydrogen mode only for the first lap.  (or so)

Aston Martin is promising that they "will be first to race with hydrogen power" and that it will be the "first zero CO2 emission lap in mainstream racing."  They are not promising a hydrogen powered race, nor a complete zero-CO2-emissions race.  Because this car can burn either gasoline or hydrogen, and because the tank is at a low enough pressure that it won't store much hydrogen, they're planning to run most of the race on gasoline, perhaps adjusting hydrogen mixes to change the burn characteristics, and to complete only one lap on pure hydrogen.

In other words, this technological feat is being performed for the purpose of a marketing stunt and to paint Aston Martin with a fine coating of greenwash.  They'll supposedly gain some green credibility unless one manages to work out the truth.

Schematic drawing
Note the ENGINE ... sigh

The modified engine comprises a hydrogen fuel rail, storage tanks and proprietary
engine management system.  This enables flexibility in the control of the combustion process according to each particular driving situation: either pure hydrogen, gasoline or a arbitrary blend of both can be selected to ensure optimum power, acceleration and CO2 reduction.

The hydrogen storage system includes four ultra-high strength carbon fiber tanks holding a total of 3.5kg (circa 7.7 lb) of hydrogen stored at a pressure of 350bar. Two of the tanks are in the passenger compartment, next the to the driver, and the other two are in the trunk. (Or, the 'boot', as they called it)

Aston Martin Chief Executive Officer Dr Ulrich Bez said: "As we celebrate our centenary in 2013 and look back on a century ofexcitement, innovation and style it's also the perfect time to look to the future with this astonishing race car.  Aston Martin has a strong track record of innovation and, with our superb history of competition and testing at the Nürburgring, it is only right that we showcase this amazing new technology at this year's 24-hour race.  Working with Alset Global to unveil this system in such a challenging environment as the 24 Hours of Nürburgring shows once again how confident we are in our cars, our people and our partners."

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