As the race to find the ultimate alternative fuel that will save us from big oil and create a safer, cleaner means of driving is under way more and more racers are getting their registration cards in. The most recent applicant is the ammonia fueled S-10 from the University of Michigan. The man responsible for the Ammonia S-10 is Shawn Grannell, a doctoral student who is looking to raise awareness of the advantages of ammonia as a quick and easy fuel source for todays cars. This is also his doctoral thesis, so it is told. So if it does not work does that mean he will be held back a year?
The advantage of ammonia is that little to no changes need to be done to a car to operate on a fuel mix of 80% ammonia and 20% unleaded fuel (yep, still a touch of oil to keep things going). The result of the burn off of ammonia is that Nitrogen and Hydrogen. However there is still the burn off of the 20% gas that is mixed AND the burn off of some carbons when you use Natural Gas to make the ammonia. The advantage of this system is you have a vehicle that can operate on 100% gasoline or on the ammonia/gas mix.
Grannell is driving his ammonia S-10 from Ann Arbor, MI to California to bring attention to this fuel alternative. The truck manages to achieve 27-mpg and carries 930 pounds of ammonia. To get all the way to California he has arranged refueling stops along the route.
When the raise to be the ultimate alternative fuel champion reaches a mass-market-able solution we can only hope that the winner or winners are truly fuels we can live with. In the meantime may science lead the way and may we continue to learn to drive smart and walk a little more.