The development of hydrogen-powered cars could be a historic turning point for motorsports and the auto industry. Why is hydrogen a relevant fuel choice? And how is it moving into the world of racing? Spotlight on a responsible energy that could revolutionise the discipline...
Why is hydrogen a good fit for motorsports?
As explained by the French renewables agency IFPEN, “1 kg of hydrogen releases roughly three times more energy than 1 kg of gasoline”. In addition, a hydrogen vehicle’s emissions are made up of just water, with zero CO2 emissions.
Convinced about hydrogen’s potential for motorsports, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and the Swiss engineering laboratory GreenGT created the MissionH24 programme in 2018 with the aim to encourage competitors to enter hydrogen-powered electric cars for the 24 Hours of Le Mans event in 2024.
Following on from many other technologies that have been launched and tested at Le Mans in the past, this operation aims to accelerate the development of this new energy. This commitment is shared by Christophe Ricard, President of GreenGT, and Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO, who hope in time to develop “a discipline and ultimately a zero-carbon mobility solution that is essential for the future of our planet”
“Hydrogen” category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Working towards this goal, September 22, 2018 saw a historic step forward: GreenGT gave a demonstration of the first hydrogen-powered racing car, the LMPH2G, on the Spa Francorchamps track in Belgium. One year later, a more advanced version of this prototype, developed by the H24 Racing team, took part in the free practice sessions at the Michelin Le Mans Cup, immersed among the various competitors in this class. Before being able to take to the track, the LMPH2G, driven by Olivier Lombard and Norman Nato, successfully passed a number of tests, crash tests and assessments to achieve FIA safety accreditation, which is essential to be able to compete.
Today, the H24 - the next-generation hydrogen prototype
“Today, we are driving progress as pioneers to some extent to introduce a new energy to the racing world, while also helping develop processes for the future”, confirms Bernard Niclot, the ACO’s hydrogen project director. “Being able to count on a partner like TotalEnergies for the refueling section, with a mobile station, is also a very important factor for success”.
After a first phase of bench tests, the H24 - the new prototype - embarked on a major cycle of private tests at several circuits in early 2021 to prepare for the next season of the Michelin Le Mans Cup.