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World's first ammonia-powered tractor unveiled.

Published: 2023-01-18

A young American company, Amogy, has unveiled what it says is the world's first zero-emission semi-trailer powered by ammonia. The truck's tanks hold enough fuel to generate 900 kWh of power, which is equal to the lithium batteries in a Tesla Semi. At the same time, ammonia tanks are much lighter, and refueling takes no longer than eight minutes, which cannot be said about charging Tesla batteries. But there are nuances.

Watch video ( TikTok )

The developer of the ammonia fueled power platform does not specify the efficiency of all stages of converting NH3 to electricity. Ammonia must be converted into pure hydrogen using a decomposition and purification system, hydrogen must be passed through fuel cells and the resulting electricity must be sent to traction motors, as well as fed into on-board systems.

Even if at all stages the processes reach the maximum efficiency for today, only half of the declared energy reserve will reach the engines, which, however, is not so hopeless. Installing a new ammonia tank is easier and cheaper than adding the same capacity with a set of lithium batteries.

The use of ammonia instead of pure hydrogen will greatly simplify the circulation of fuel, since hydrogen must be stored either as a gas under enormous pressure (about 700 atmospheres), or in liquid form, cooled to -252.87 ° C. Ammonia is stored in cylinders in liquid form at normal pressure and ambient temperature. Thus, in terms of energy storage density, ammonia outperforms hydrogen gas by about three times in volume, and 20 times ahead of lithium batteries in weight.

It must be remembered that a shortage of lithium is predicted for the next decade, not to mention other metals and minerals important for the production of batteries. It still lacks, to be fair. Ammonia, like hydrogen, can be produced in an environmentally friendly way, such as in nuclear power plants or using renewable energy, making it important for the sustainable economy of the future.

Amogy installed its ammonia-powered power platform on a 2018 production Freightliner Cascadia semi-trailer. The car has been tested on the campus of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a full-scale evaluation of real-world performance on the test track is scheduled for later this month. In addition, Amogy has a 5-kW ammonia power plant for a drone and a 100-kW tractor for a tractor.

Moreover, Amogy is working towards the most powerful ship installations for maritime transport. By the end of 2023, it promises to show the work of a tug with a power plant with a capacity of 1 MW, and by 2025 it promises to present a 10-MW unit for sea container ships. And it is not the only one, a number of projects envisage ammonia as an indirect and even direct fuel for aircraft and marine engines.