Honda's new "Clean Diesel"

FCX Concept Car

FCX Fuel Cell Stack
Honda puts on display next generation clean diesel and fuel cell technology

Diesel engines for consumer vehicles in the United States in recent years have been relegated mainly to heavy-duty pickups along with the Jeep Liberty, Mercedes E-Class and a few VW models. The diesel engine just hasn't taken off here due to the relatively cheap unleaded fuel prices that Americans enjoyed. In Europe, however, diesel engines are found in 50% of new cars.

Honda has unveiled a new diesel drivetrain that it hopes to employ in its US passenger cars by 2009. It also says that the new engine passes U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier II Bin 5 emissions requirements. The key to Honda's diesel cleanliness is due to an innovative new catalytic converter that uses ammonia to convert nitrogen oxide into nitrogen. According to Honda's press release:

The new catalytic converter utilizes a two-layer structure: one layer adsorbs NOx from the exhaust gas and converts a portion of it into ammonia, while the other layer adsorbs the resulting ammonia, and uses it later in a reaction that converts the remaining NOx in the exhaust into nitrogen (N2). Ammonia is a highly effective reagent for reducing NOx into N2 in an oxygen-rich, lean-burn atmosphere. This ability to generate and store ammonia within the catalytic converter has enabled Honda to create a compact, lightweight NOx reduction system for diesel engines. The system also features enhanced NOx reduction performance at 200–300ºC, the main temperature range of diesel engines.

Honda also touted its next generation FCX concept fuel cell vehicle. The new fuel cell stack used in the FCX is 30% lighter and 20% smaller than the previous generation. Despite the reductions in size and weight, power is up by 14kW. The drive motor also saw its power output increase by 15kW and the overall drivetrain is nearly 400 pounds lighter than before.

With its hydrogen fuel cell and onboard lithium ion batteries, the FCX boasts an overall efficiency rating of 60% -- three times that of a conventional internal combustion engine, two times greater than a hybrid vehicle and 10% better than the previous generation FCX. When all is said and done, the new FCX boasts a range of 354 miles.

Honda has long been seen as a “green” company in the United States and its new engine technologies show that the company is poised to maintain that clean image.

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