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EU-funded ‘HyICE’ project a major step forward for hydrogen

On 27 February 2007, project partners, invited guests and members of the press heard coordinators and EU officials at BMW Group’s Research and Technology facility in Munich describe the HyICE project as a resounding success and a model of the Commission’s Integrated Project (IP) formula.

BMW hydrogen car
BMW Group applying HyICE

Speaking at the final HyICE meeting, Director of the European Commission’s DG RTD Transport Directorate András Siegler said, “HyICE is one the first of the transport research IPs to be completed, and we see it as a major catalyst to further important technological advancement.”

Introduced under the Union’s Sixth Framework Programme and now extended into the Seventh, the IPs are comprehensive research initiatives intended to deliver results through the co-operation of industry, small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), academic institutions and the research community.

Why hydrogen?

András Siegler, Maurizio Maggiore and Hans-Christian Fickel
András Siegler, Maurizio Maggiore
and Hans-Christian Fickel

As the only carbon-free fuel, hydrogen releases no CO 2 during combustion. The Commission believes hydrogen can be used in adapted internal combustion engines in the near future, but today’s hydrogen engines, based on port injection, suffer from reduced power density.

Aimed at developing a clean and economical hydrogen fuelled automobile engine, HyICE looked at two new approaches. First, the project tried mixing cryogenic hydrogen gas with aspirated air, increasing energy content within the combustion chamber. Second, hydrogen was injected directly into the combustion chamber. Both approaches, say partners, produce a 15% increase in power output.

Additional subprojects delivered important and innovative supporting technologies, especially in the area of computational fluid dynamics (CFDs). Another significant aspect of the project was its international dimension. HyICE brought together a variety of players, including US partner Ford.

Power in partnership

HyICE exhibition
HyICE on display

“The transatlantic partnership allowed the exchange of valuable know-how,” said project coordinator Hans-Christian Fickel, “and, with the support of the EU, we have surpassed our own goals in terms of engine power and efficiency.”

Raymond Freymann, Head of BMW Group Research and Technology said, “This project has produced clear results in terms of achieving hydrogen-fuelled engines that are as efficient as current diesels and non-polluting. We are convinced that the hydrogen combustion engine will become an attractive method of transportation in the future.”

Meeting tough environmental targets

“The environment is one of our most fundamental challenges,” said Seigler. “Meeting our goals in terms of CO 2 reduction is a major task, and we all know that transport is a big part of that.

HyICE exhibition
HyICE exhibition

“The important thing with hydrogen is that we have to take a systemic approach. We have new engine concepts thanks to projects like HyICE, but we must also consider the production of hydrogen, how it will be stored and supplied. All of these processes can potentially represent a burden on the environment.” The upcoming Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) on hydrogen, Seigler said, will address the entire gamut of hydrogen and fuel cell-related issues.

“The HyICE project,” says EC Project Officer Maurizio Maggiore, “gives us a real opportunity to play a leading role in the emerging hydrogen and fuel cell economy, bridging the gap between today’s conventional vehicles and tomorrow’s fuel cell-based vehicles.”

HyICE results will now be taken further under the EU-funded HyFLEET: CUTE project, which covers the operation of 47 hydrogen-powered buses in regular public transport service in ten cities on three continents. Another HyICE successor project is expected to look at high-pressure direct injection in combination with spark ignition.