Battery-electric vehicles seem poised to become the car of the future, but many automakers, including Porsche, are hedging their bets. BEVs will likely serve as just one solution to reducing emissions, with hydrogen, synthetic fuels, and others filling in the gaps. Porsche is investing in alternative powertrain technology, recently completing a virtual test of a hydrogen-powered engine.

The automaker simulated a large luxury vehicle driving around the Nurburgring Nordschleife with the powertrain, lapping the circuit in eight minutes and 20.2 seconds. Porsche used its 4.4-liter V8 as a starting point for the virtual study, modifying it to withstand a higher compression ratio and combustion. In the test, the vehicle reached 162 miles per hour (261 kilometers per hour).

The automaker discovered that the turbochargers needed to provide twice as much air mass, but lower exhaust gas temperatures made this difficult, forcing Porsche to install electronically assisted turbochargers.

Different turbocharging configurations resulted in the engine exhibiting different advantages and disadvantages. However, one thing the engine isn’t short of is power. Porsche says the hydrogen engine produces around 590 horsepower (440 kilowatts), which is comparable to its gas-powered equivalent. Porsche simulated the engine in a vehicle weighing a hefty 5,842 pounds (2,650 kilograms), putting the car in Cayenne territory.

Porsche’s simulation revealed that the engine could meet the Euro 7 emissions standards. The hydrogen engine is more complex and expensive than a traditional gasoline engine; however, it wouldn’t need an aftertreatment system for the exhaust gas. This makes the hydrogen engine comparable to the gas one. 

The automaker says that it has no plans to put the engine in production “in its current form.” However, that wasn’t the project’s goal, as the company used the test to examine the technology’s potential. The study helped Porsche “gain valuable insights” about high-performance hydrogen engines. 

Porsche isn’t the only automaker looking into hydrogen. Ford filed a patent for a hydrogen-combustion engine, and Toyota is also toying with the technology. Automakers like Hyundai continue developing hydrogen fuel cells, but there are hurdles to bringing the tech to the masses. Hydrogen fueling infrastructure remains woefully inadequate in the US, but that’s not slowing automakers down. Renault, BMW, and Land Rover are also exploring the technology.

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