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Liquid Nitrogen Car Threatens Hydrogen Car

In the past, I’ve discussed some of the major threats to hydrogen cars in the future car marketplace. Such threats include electric vehicles, biofuel vehicles, solar cars and compressed air vehicles. And, liquid nitrogen (LN2) cars must also be added to the list.

The air we breathe is made up of 78-percent nitrogen, 21-percent oxygen and 1-percent of other gases. This means that if liquid nitrogen is used for fuel and released back into the environment, it also becomes a zero emissions alternative.

Just as the compression, liquefaction and cryogenic storage of hydrogen takes a great deal of energy for use in a vehicle such as the BMW Hydrogen 7 luxury automobile, so does this same process for nitrogen also take a lot of energy for use as a power source for vehicles. But, unlike hydrogen, nitrogen has primarily been used in turbine-type engines instead of internal combustion engines (ICE) or fuel cell vehicles.

On the safety side, nitrogen is mostly an inert gas that does not have the combustion properties of other gases such as hydrogen or oxygen. The compressed liquid nitrogen for turbine engines is heated using the ambient heat of the vehicle and as it expands, this turns the turbine, which supplies power to the wheels of the vehicle.

In 2000, the University of Washington created the LN2000, which was a converted mail delivery van that ran on liquid nitrogen. The 1984 Grumman-Olson Kubvan had a 15-hp, 5-cylinder air motor plus a preheater to deal with the nitrogen. The project has since been abandoned due to lack of funding.

In 1997, the University of North Texas (UNT) developed the CooLN2Car, which also ran off of cryogenic liquid nitrogen using an isothermal expansion engine. As of October 2006, the UNT Nitrogen Car Project was still moving forward according to the university as researchers are busy building a second-generation nitrogen-powered vehicle.

While the theory of a nitrogen economy does have many parallels with that of a hydrogen economy, there are also some serious shortcomings involved in using cryogenic nitrogen over other alternative fuels. The energy is takes to produce liquid nitrogen, its low energy density and its inertness can be seen as drawbacks compared to hydrogen, which is more flexible in its uses.

Hydrogen can be liquefied like nitrogen and used to turn a turbine, but it can also be used in a compressed gaseous state and burn inside an internal combustion engine or power a fuel cell as well. But, let’s not throw nitrogen cars out completely as they may have their uses in the future especially when a high degree of safety is necessary such as for trucks hauling flammable materials, or mining cars or other circumstances where a vehicle should not be able to start a greater fire in its surroundings.

The more alternative fuel options we have going forward the more likely it will be that one day soon, fossil fuels will be thing of the past and we will have moved on to more environmentally-friendly vehicles. That won’t be such a bad day now will it?

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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8 comments

  1. Hi Kevin,

    I’ve been looking at the simplest processes for alternative fuels recently. (caveat: I’m not a chemist nor an expert in anything else, for that matter).

    Nitrogen just makes a lot of sense to me – but not pure. Alternatives: use ammonia, hydrazine, or other forms of NHx (non acid) as a fuel-base to liquid fuel.

    What I’m wondering is, can’t highly instable hydrazine (used as rocket fuel but higher boiling point than water) and ammonia (very gaseous) be mixed into something else (ethanol) to increase power? I’m looking for a liquid that acts like gasoline without the need for fuelcells..

    Contact me once you reply:
    dominic dot schmelzer at interhyp dot de

    Cheers, Dom

  2. which type of car is more better? liq.nitrogen or hydrogen powered????????? plz gve reason

  3. t think, it’s good idiea to use nitrogen fuelin the vechale

  4. I’ve started to work on a Liquid Nitrogen -steam power hybrid – basically a rotary steam engine sandwiched between two rotary engines that us liquid nitrogen – I’m trying to add extra heat to the nitrogen and at the same time cool the steam enough to solve the condenser problem recirculating steam presents

  5. Hey, I hope you call real quick. 903-769-5191, or, 214-695-8168. I have developed a prototype that will use high amplitude sound (thermoacoustics) to heat the nitrogen and also create mechanical work. The cold side causes ambient air to collapse into more fuel. I’m looking for an intelligent partner. Ultimately, I plan to unfold matter via frequencies of light and sound. It’s extremely advanced but very simple. I should be able to accelerate matter to near absolute velocity in 3 inches of space in order to convert any substance to extreme energy. The calculations are off the chart. -Scott-

  6. greetings for you,I was intrested in Liquid Nirogen car and vehicle and I thouhgt that no body thought of that , the reason that I was thinking deeply of the matter was both the economic and invironmental effects , the care and vehicle will be cosfull , but rich countreies like Qatar can be inthusized to buy the car , ther expanding of the nitrogen liquid will form cold ( negative callories ) and moderate the wether of such hot country like Qatar instead for the heat which is released by other cars , the idea is that the Liquid nitrogen must be imported from a specific country ( Norway ) which has a lot of electricity generated by the fijords and do produce and capable to produce the huge ammount of Liquid Nitrogen with effective low cost,then and only then when the Liquid nitrogen is brought from a country like Norway in affloated ships to Qatar to be used in LN2 cars then it will be environmentally usiful and hence economically, a trade network must be made with eraising the consciuosness ( it needs an environmental intelect ) to relize this .

  7. How do you liquify nitrogen and which plant is used to do so? Can compressed nitrogen be liquified?

  8. admin

    Here’s some info on compressed liquid nitrogen generators:

    http://www.kelvinic.com/m50nitrogencondenserv2.pdf

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