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LET’S CELEBRATE the 100th anniversary of Aston Martin. Let’s also clarify some hype about its dual-fuel Rapide S Hydrogen Hybrid to be raced at next month’s Nürburgring 24-hour. It’ll be a laudable achievement even when the facts are straight.
First, the heritage of this British marque. In 1913, Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford established Aston Martin, “Aston” from the Aston hill climb in Aston Clinton, a Buckinghamshire village about 40 miles northwest of London.
The company’s first heyday came between 1926 and 1937 with the Bertelli cars, most of them open two-seat sports cars designed by Augustus “Bert” Bertelli.
A British agent of some note is known to have driven an Aston Martin. Oh, yeah, that one too, but I was thinking of Sir Denis Nayland Smith in his encounters with Fu Manchu.
A second heyday dated from 1947 when industrialist Sir David Brown bought the works. Subsequent Astons carried DB nomenclature, as with James Bond’s DB5.
That same year, the company acquired Lagonda, an even older British marque established in 1906. Founded by American Wilbur Gunn, this company got its name from Lagonda Creek, near Springfield, Ohio, the town of Gunn’s birth.
Another noteworthy car appeared in 1976. Futuristically wedge-shaped, the Aston Martin Lagonda was a luxurious four-door that carried electronics far beyond anything sensible at the time.
The Aston Martin Lagonda wasn’t as ugly as some claimed, but it was unreliable to a fault (typically, an electrical one).
New ownerships came and went, the most significant being Ford’s 1994-2007. That year, British motorsportsman David Richards formed a consortium of American and Kuwaiti interests buying 90 percent of Aston Martin. In 2012, an Italian equity fund invested ₤150 million in buying 37.5 percent of the company. Who knows whether Ford’s ₤40 million stake is still somewhere on Dearborn books.
But enough of international finance. What of the dual-fuel Aston Martin Rapide S Hydrogen Hybrid?
The Nürburgring race car’s 6.0-liter V-12 powerplant is modified to run on gasoline, hydrogen or any combination of the two. Apart from the publicity value, there’s technical merit in this. Dual gasoline/hydrogen internal combustion makes it a bridge vehicle helping evolution of a Hydrogen Highway and fuel-cell propulsion.
BMW preceded Aston in this regard with its Hydrogen 7 Program (www.wp.me/p2ETap-jJ). The German company chose cryogenic storage of liquid hydrogen; Aston selects the less complex high-pressure gaseous form.
According to Aston Martin and Alset Global, the car’s hybrid developer, the goal of its pure hydrogen mode is “to show that a zero emissions lap of the Nordschleife is possible while emitting virtually only water from the exhaust.”
Sorry, guys, “virtually” is a funny word; but this ignores real automotive pollutants, not merely the CO2 that Europeans get all nerdy about.
The harmful pollutants of internal combustion (when fueled by gasoline or diesel) are carbon monoxide, CO; oxides of nitrogen, NOX (two of the “criteria pollutants”) and unburned hydrocarbons, HC (examples of volatile organic compounds, VOCs).
The “Cs” of CO, CO2 and HC are carbon, and hence fueling an internal combustion engine with hydrogen eliminates these three. But the engine still ingests air, which is 78 percent nitrogen and 22 percent oxygen. Therefore, the hydrogen-fuel Aston’s lap of Nürburgring will still emit NOX.
It won’t be much if a NOX-specific catalytic convertor is fitted, but neither will the exhaust be just water. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013