Concept of the Day: Aston Martin Hydrogen Hybrid Rapide S

April 12, 2013 § 1 Comment

aston hydrogen hybridWell, it’s a Friday, so I’ll indulge y’all with a supercar pic. Aston Martin, Hydrogen Hybrid Rapide S, to race at the ‘Ring next month. Features a prototype twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12 which can run on pure gaseous hydrogen, gasoline, or a blend of the two, and is claimed to be capable of a full C02-free lap of the Nordschleife in which it emits “virtually only water” from the exhaust. The car has a bespoke engine management system, four carbonfibre hydrogen storage tanks (two next to the driver and two in the boot) and is said to have “a carbon footprint more akin to that of a supermini” (debatable, I feel, depending on the source of the hydrogen and how it is extracted, but we’ll hand it to Aston on the emissions front*). Otherwise, it’s similar to the standard Rapide S four-door – which goes on sale this month – and good for 190mph and 0-62 in 4.9 seconds.

*A commenter, e-bike-rider cableflux, begs to differ on this score, citing NOx emissions higher than those from a gasoline equivalent. My understanding of H2-ICE is that, while NOx emissions were typically slightly up at high temperatures in earlier prototype experiments, this can – these days – be managed by advanced combustion control (hydrogen is lean-burn anyway) plus EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) which compensates for any attendant loss of engine power, plus selective catalytic reduction (SCR). Sure, we don’t know if the Aston has SCR (it’s not mentioned here or in any other material from either Aston or system-providers Alset Global) but I would have thought that it would meet all relevant legislation/homologation requirements and that its NOx emissions would be acceptably low – at least by the standards of what everything else in the race will be spewing out under full steam (as it were).

But yeah, I’m not wholly convinced by this whole hydrogen-as-the-fuel-of-the-future thing, either. Quite apart from the practical infrastructural issues which need to be solved, my suspicions are that this is a very convenient commercial/industrial agenda to be pushed (no money to be made in fuel supply if everyone charged EVs at home from their own PV panels/wind microturbines/other renewable sources, after all). Big H is, I think, being fingered as a replacement for Big Oil, so it’s right to be wary of the claims for it.

  • Much muttering this week about a certain Norwegian study which claims that EVs are, over their lifecycle, less eco-friendly than ICE vehicles. (Yes, we’ve heard this many times before). I’m not going to go down the line of assuming that the study is biased ‘cos it was sponsored by StatOil – draw yer own conclusions, I’m not about to cast aspersions on the integrity of the individual researchers involved – but will point you in the direction of firstly, the very in-depth study carried out by Ricardo (2011) for the LowCVP, and secondly, a piece I wrote last year which looked at the follow-up research to that, including the finding that the carbon payback time (when the savings from operating an EV outweigh the extra carbon costs of its manufacturing) was getting increasingly shorter.
  • InnovateUK (Technology Strategy Board) is funding four more  ‘future cities’ demo projects – more here. This programme has now funded 30 feasibility studies; besides competition winner Glasgow, three further sh0rt-listed projects in Bristol, London and Peterborough will each receive £3million each. Projects include ‘open data’ and civic engagement programmes including mobility-on-demand services (Bristol), the creation of an eco-tech cluster in Peterborough and 3D mapping/automated inquiry of utility roadworks in London to reduce congestion, local air pollution and road maintenance costs.
  • Meanwhile in Paris, there’s a suburban public transit revolution goin’ on – Sustainable Cities Collective is reporting on approval for four new driverless ‘super metro’ lines with 72 new stations linking marginalised areas to transport hubs and business centres, to be completed 2030 (via @Roads2Nowhere – thanks).
  • News on the discovery of different enzymes and catalysts for breaking down biomass to make biofuel pretty much comes daily, but this snippet was so stomach-churning it was worth noting: a fungus which lives in the guts of horses breaks down cellulose. Kinda obvious, really, given that horses eat grass, and I shall resist from making any bad jokes about the resulting power.
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§ One Response to Concept of the Day: Aston Martin Hydrogen Hybrid Rapide S

  • finecadmin says:

    No, we WON’T hand it to Aston on the emissions front. Hydrogen’s light weight results in high NOx production- MORE than gasoline, especially since NOx is more difficult to control. Hence the “virtually only” weasel words- who thinks the Rapide has a little SCR tank? Aston trots out the hydrogen… because it’s a bolt-on solution, when they have nothing else to offer.

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