Battery electric vehicles look set to be the car of the future, but many automakers, including Porsche, are hedging their bets. BEVs will likely be just one solution among many to reduce emissions, with hydrogen, synthetic fuels and others filling the gaps. Porsche is investing in alternative powertrain technology, recently completing a virtual test of a hydrogen engine.
The automaker simulated a large luxury vehicle rolling around the Nurburgring’s Nordschleife with the powertrain, circling the circuit in eight minutes and 20.2 seconds. Porsche used its 4.4-liter V8 as the starting point for the virtual study, modifying it to withstand a higher compression ratio and combustion. During the test, the vehicle reached 162 miles per hour (261 kilometers per hour).
The automaker found that turbochargers needed to deliver twice as much air mass, but lower exhaust gas temperatures made this difficult, forcing Porsche to install electronically assisted turbochargers.
Different boost configurations gave the engine different advantages and disadvantages. However, one thing the engine does not lack is power. Porsche claims the hydrogen engine produces around 590 horsepower (440 kilowatts), which is comparable to its gasoline equivalent. Porsche simulated the engine of a vehicle weighing 5,842 pounds (2,650 kilograms), placing the car in Cayenne territory.
Porsche’s simulation revealed that the engine could meet Euro 7 emissions standards. The hydrogen engine is more complex and more expensive than a traditional gasoline engine; however, it would not need an exhaust after-treatment system. This makes the hydrogen engine comparable to the gas one.
The automaker says it has no plans to put the engine into production “in its current form.” However, that was not the goal of the project, as the company used the test to examine the technology’s potential. The study helped Porsche “gain valuable insights” into high-performance hydrogen engines.
Porsche isn’t the only automaker looking into hydrogen. Ford has filed a patent for a hydrogen combustion engine, and Toyota is also toying with the technology. Automakers like Hyundai continue to develop hydrogen fuel cells, but there are hurdles to bringing the technology to the masses. The hydrogen fueling infrastructure remains woefully inadequate in the United States, but that’s not slowing automakers down. Renault, BMW and Land Rover are also exploring the technology.