Can Ammonia Really be used as a sustainable fuel?

The use of ammonia as a sustainable fuel is discussed by C. Zamfirescu, I. Dincer of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), 2000 Simcoe Street North, Oshawa, Ont., Canada L1H 7K4, in a publication that has been  available since 17 July 2008.

You can link to the complete paper here

The conclusions reached in this and in other publications are clear:

  • Ammonia is the least expensive fuel in terms of $/GJ
  • In terms of GJ/m, ammonia becomes the third, after gasoline and LPG.
  • There is an advantage of by-product refrigeration, 7.2% fromHHV, which reduces the costs and maintenance.
  • Ammonia is the cheapest fuel per 100 km driving range as a reasonable and practical assumption.
  • Some additional advantages of ammonia are commercial availability and viability, global distribution network, easy handling experience, etc., .
  • While its toxicity may be seen as a challenge, this can easily be overcome with the current control and storage technologies. 

Some papers on the Use of NH3 as a fuel

The search for the “ideal” alternative fuel to eliminate our addiction to high-priced and environmentally unfriendly petroleum has been long and difficult.

An early utilization of liquid NH3 was as a fuel for motor-buses took place in Belgium during 1943. Dr. Emeric Kroch developed these ammonia / coal gas hybrid motors to keep public transportation in operation despite the extreme diesel shortages of World War II.

You can read the original paper by Dr. Emeric Kroch here.

Japanese Professor Shinji Kamihara developed a device to allow cars to cleanly run on hydrogen released from ammonia.

His Plasma Membrane Reactor could take a jug of ammonia and convert it into pure hydrogen cleanly and cheaply to power anything from portable generators to cars”.

The 2017 paper, in Japanese, can be viewed here.

Ammonia powered car

“Marangoni – the Italian tire manufacturer – used the most recent Geneva Motor Show to reveal a special version of Toyota’s nimble sports coupe. The GT86-R Eco Explorer”  
“The ‘Eco’ comes in when we tell you that the car is actually fitted with a Bigas International NH3 system, which means that the engine can run on ammonia – that’s right, ammonia – which is stored in a separate tank.
According to Marangoni, considering that a litre of ammonia costs just 20 cents and the 30-liter tank means a range of 180km.
When the engine works at 2,800 rpm it can be fuelled exclusively on ammonia alone, “

See the complete report here.

Your Car Might Soon Be Able To Run On Ammonia

“The Ammonia catalyst that will be used in automobiles will be as big as a 2-litre Soda bottle. It will produce enough hydrogen to power a family car.
Ammonia is not expensive and is available in plenty. It can be filled into the tanks with our existing fuel pumps. This makes it the biggest possibility that Ammonia could power the future cars.”
See the article by Ajinkya Paralikar,, here.

Key Life-Cycle Numbers for NH3, Fossil Fuel and Green Energy production, by Greg Vezina and others

This is a comparative assessment of four different methods of NH3 production and suggestions for the utilization of those processes in agriculture, energy and utilities, and transportation systems for Ontario.

A link to the paper is here.

Hydrogen produced on demand from the cracking of ammonia is a breakthrough that could be a game-changer for the future of car fuels. According to David Willetts, the UK Minister for Universities and Science: “This is exactly the sort of innovation we need UK researchers and engineers to develop to secure our role as a global leader in this field, putting Britain at the forefront of solving modern day transportation problems.

"This breakthrough could also hugely contribute to our efforts to reduce our greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050."

See the full press release by Marion O’sullivan, Science and Technology Facilities Council, here, is/was a website focussed on an ammonia-powered future.

According to the authors, America’s transition to renewable energy faces a huge challenge. Oil shortages, pollution and the cost of gasoline make our continued reliance on the internal combustion engine problematic. The NH3 Car is designed to meet that challenge. reported on on the NH3 Car's trip across America, and focussed on spark ignition (gasoline) engines. (Other design teams are working on using ammonia for diesel engines. You can find those folks on our links page.)

The web site is designed to keep you up to date on the progress of the NH3 Car. After years of development, in the summer of 2007 we drove our NH3 vehicle across America, from Detroit to San Francisco, powered by a mix of ammonia and gasoline. (OK, well it is really a truck, but it could just as easily be a car in the future.) Why a mixture….how does it work….what does this mean for America’s energy future?