First It Was Hybrids, Now Hydrogen Cars Could Compete At Le Mans By 2024
Hydrogen-powered cars could be competing in that greatest motor race of all, the Le Mans 24 Hours, as soon as five years from now. This is because Le Mans organizer the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and GreenGT have just announced that they have founded the H24Racing team to boost its effort to have hydrogen-powered cars racing at the famous Circuit de la Sarthe endurance event by 2024. This is part of the two bodies’ joint venture announced last September at Spa called MissionH24, which is to encourage hydrogen-powered entries to compete alongside combustion engine machines at 2024’s Le Mans, the concluding round of the 2023-24 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
Hydrogen cars, or to give their fuller name hydrogen fuel cell cars, have hydrogen injected into their fuel tank instead of filling up with petrol or diesel. They take energy from hydrogen and pass it through a fuel cell to be converted into electrical energy. The technology has been touted as a zero-emission solution as the only tailpipe emission is pure water, rather the CO2 or NOx. A small number of hydrogen-powered road car models are available to buy, yet the technology remains from some perspectives raw. Which is where motorsport comes in.
In 2024 a new class of hydrogen-powered cars will compete at the Le Mans 24 Hours and those behind H24Racing and the MissionH24 project predict their program will aid the development of hydrogen technology for use in road cars. This will include by providing an exacting testing ground for the technology as well as by raising its profile, in a similar way that endurance racing did previously with hybrid power. “Endurance racing broke the mold in 2012, when the FIA World Endurance Championship first included hybrid prototypes,” said WEC and European Le Mans Series CEO Gérard Neveu, to this end. “This discipline is a pioneer. With MissionH24 and H24Racing, the ACO and GreenGT bring hydrogen to the sporting world, and our series and championships take on a whole new dimension. Today, we are racing to the future.”
Few of the H24Racing team’s detailed plans have been revealed and are promised ‘in due course’. H24Racing general manager Jean-Michel Bouresche did though outline the broad roadmap, including that its LMPH2G, an electric-hydrogen-powered racing prototype, will race on-track under the team’s banner perhaps as early as this year. “Le Mans 2024 is just five seasons away,” Bouresche said. “Five seasons in which H24Racing will be racing over mid and long distances, putting the LMPH2G and its electric-hydrogen technology through its paces. Fitted with GreenGT’s high-power electric-hydrogen energy module, the car is entering the second stage of development now that the technical configuration has been defined. From now on, we are looking for performance, speed and endurance. The third stage, which begins later this year, is the competition phase where the LMPH2G takes on its first opponents under the new H24Racing banner. We shall be writing the future of the automotive world.”
Images courtesy of Green GT