Follow-up on Agni's hydrogen/biodiesel/solar/electric car (we were wrong, but how could we have guessed this?)

A few weeks ago, we reported on a press release from Agni Inc., an alternative energy technology company, that announced the registration of the design rights for a car that could run on hydrogen, diesel, biodiesel, grid-electricity and the sun. Unfortunately, the press release was short and left many questions unanswered, so the car remained a bit of a mystery. We contacted Agni directly to obtain additional information and just a few days ago they were finally able to get back to us with a more thorough description of the vehicle they're calling the REAL AF (Renewable Energy Automobile - Ambiente Futuro).

Back in October, we speculated that the car would be powered by a hybrid drivetrain incorporating an electric motor and a small-displacement diesel engine, however, we were very wrong. Instead the car uses two electric DC motors - one to provide primary propulsion, the other for rapid acceleration - which are linked to a gearbox through an electric clutch. If needed, the car is able convert its diesel or biodiesel fuel to hydrogen through a fuel processor which is incorporated in its two Agni Hydrogen Power Modules.

As for electrical energy storage, the REAL AF uses a bank of super capacitors instead of batteries. The capacity of the reservoir for non-operational storage which is used when pulling electricity from a wall outlet is listed at 160 MJ (about 44 kWh). It appears as though the Hydrogen Power Module is linked to a separate storage unit capable of holding 64 MJ (about 18 kWh).

As expected, the car uses regenerative brakes, but also incorporates a thermal energy management system that is able to recover energy from waste heat generated by the fuel processor and on-board electronics and use it to chill water for air conditioning. It's up to the Intelligent Energy Management System to manage the generation, storage and deployment of energy to deliver either optimal efficiency or maximum performance.

Unfortunately, the description isn't a full spec sheet, but we've certainly obtained a much clearer vision of the car's capabilities and intentions. One last note is that the description only mentions European safety standards, so we probably won't get a chance to see the REAL AF state-side.

You'll find the entire vehicle description after the jump.

[Source: Agni, Inc.]
Hydrogen Power Modules - The power generation system.

The REAL AF car is designed to offer maximum utility for the urban driver, however with enough flexibility to allow comfortable and powerful long-distance travel. The REAL AF is designed in all carbon/glass fibre shell to exceed European safety standards. The REAL AF will be powered using Agni's Hydrogen Power Modules, which include the fuel processor to convert either Petro-Diesel or Green Diesel into Hydrogen. The Hydrogen Power Module is rated at 6kWe, and there are two such modules in each car.

The Regenerative Propulsion.

The REAL AF has two dc motors - one for primary propulsion and the second for rapid acceleration. Both motors are of the permanent magnet dc motor type, and linked to the gearbox via electrical clutch. The dc motors are controlled using regenerative drive system, linked to the brakes to recover maximum energy. This system is adaptive and varies the amount of energy regenerated proportionate to the amount of pressure applied to the brake pedal. Up to 90% energy recovery is possible.

Energy Management.

At the heart of the REAL AF is an Intelligent Energy Management System, based on four microprocessor controlled high efficiency dc - dc converters and two PLC controlled Thermal Energy Management Systems. The function of the dc - dc converters is to manage the complex task of efficiently generating, storing and deploying the energy in an optimal fashion. Unlike traditional automotive engines, where the increasing of fuel flow by depressing the accelerator simply provides the torque required to accelerate, in the REAL AF, the microprocessor controlled dc - dc converters and a bank of super capacitors have to dynamically react to provide the additional Amps required at very short notice by the dc - motors to deliver the rapid acceleration. The microprocessors constantly analyse the performance of the car, the driving pattern, the driving environment, the fuel remaining etc. in order to anticipate and react in a manner that provides maximum performance when required, yet optimal economy at other times. The Thermal Energy Management Systems recovers the waste heat from the fuel processor and electronics to provide chilled water for air conditioning.

Energy Source.

The REAL AF is designed with thin film solar panels on the roof and upper section of the front bonnet, to enable solar energy often available when the car is parked in an uncovered area. This unfortunately the solar panels enable the generation of only a small amount the overall energy required by the vehicle when in use, nonetheless a renewable and free source of energy. The REAL AF is also equipped with 160MJ of energy storage, thereby enabling the owners to take advantage of inexpensive night tariff available in some countries to charge up for the following morning's commute, which provides the option of a non-fossil fuel performance. During vehicular operation, energy recovered from regenerative braking is used to augment the energy produced by the Hydrogen Power Module, and stored in a energy stored in a reservoir with capacity of 64MJ. From the reservoir, the dc - dc converters can deliver much needed Amps at a split second to the dc - motors, if needed.

Communication and Maintenance.
The microcontrollers and a industrial grade computer provides full instrumentation and data acquisition to enable continuous monitoring of all functions within the REAL AF. The computer will alert and schedule anticipated maintenance as and when required. The REAL is equipped with GSM facility to provide remote diagnostic capability on the road and emergency support. At the request of the owner/driver, the support facility can remote interrogate the REAL's computer and re-start functions.

A simple biodiesel processing kit is also made available with the car to enable the conversion of vegetable oils into biodiesel for use with the car, although it will accept petro-diesel.

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