How a Hydrogen-Boosted Gasoline Engine Works

BMW's recent concept car, the hydrogen-powered 7-Series, is still a long way from arriving at dealerships.

Faced with the ever-increasing cost of gasoline, automakers worldwide are working overtime to cost-effectively improve vehicle fuel economy while still meeting today's strict emissions requirements. One promising way to boost fuel economy is to add hydrogen to the fuel/air mixture in a conventional gasoline engine. It's called a hydrogen-boosted gas engine. However, since hydrogen isn't readily available at your local filling station, selling a hydrogen-boosted gas engine hasn't been on any automakers' short list. Until now, that is.

In this article, we'll explain a new technology that utilizes a fast-response on-board reformer to generate a small amount of hydrogen from gasoline. This hydrogen is added to the engine's normal air/fuel mixture. Engines designed to run on a mix of hydrogen/gasoline can see a fuel-economy gain of 20 to 30 percent with no requirement for control of harmful NOx emissions, oxides of nitrogen. On the next two pages, we'll tell you how this new fuel-saving engine works and why it looks like it has the potential to become a viable, fuel-saving technology. We'll address the following issues regarding this new technology:

  • What Is a Hydrogen-Boosted Gasoline Engine?A small amount of hydrogen made on-board by the reformer is added to the normal intake air and gasoline mixture in the vehicle's engine. This greatly improves overall combustion quality by allowing nearly twice as much air for a given amount of fuel introduced into the combustion chamber. This is more energy efficient because it saves energy by reducing the amount of engine pumping needed. Learn what the experts are saying about this new technology.
  • The Future of Hydrogen-Boosted Gas EnginesThe race is on for the fuel-economy leadership position. Where will the hydrogen-boosted gas engine fit in with other fuel-saving technologies like hybrid cars, E85 ethanol-powered vehicles, and new clean diesel-powered cars. How much gas does it save compared to other alternative fuel-powered vehicles? Will consumers begin seeing this type of engine in cars in the near future? Find out in this section.