Formula E considering shift to hydrogen fuel from batteries

Hydrogen Sector 30.12.21
Written by: HYCAP

Formula E, the all-electric rival to Formula 1, is considering a shift to hydrogen fuel cells from batteries for its fourth-generation cars.

The 2022/23 season will see the introduction of Formula E’s Gen3 design, but is already thinking about Gen 4, which will be introduced in 2027. Formula E has exclusive rights to a hydrogen-powered racing series from the FIA until 2039.

“There are two ways to use hydrogen, one way is to burn the hydrogen, which is very inefficient, but some people are working on maybe making it more efficient,” said Formula E co-founder Alejandro Agag. “The other way, which is the one we would use, is a hydrogen fuel cell that basically produces electricity that then powers an electric motor.”

All-electric rally series, Extreme E, already uses hydrogen fuel cells to power the Odyssey 21 E-SUVs at its races. The HYRAZE League – a hydrogen sportscar series – is expected to launch in 2023 and will also use fuel cells.

The first Extreme E rally to take place in the UK in Dorset in mid-December was powered by hydrogen produced by Scottish start-up PlusZero, which sources its green H2 from renewable energy generated in the Western Isles and Orkney. Technical support was provided by Logan Energy, an Edinburgh-based energy systems provider.

Extreme E is backed by F1 champions including Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, all of which have their own teams. Their vehicles produce the equivalent of 550 bhp and can tackle gradients of up to 53 degrees.

Gen3 Formula E cars will have 470 bhp and 600 kW of regenerative breaking. The 2021/22 championship begins in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on Jan. 28 and will take in 16 tracks around the world including Mexico City, Rome, Monaco and London.

While F1 cars boast more than 1,000 bhp, they are only slightly quicker off the line, reaching 100 km/h in 2.6 seconds compared with 2.8 seconds for a Formula E car. They are currently considerably faster though, with a top speed of 397 km/h vs. 280 km/h for Formula E.

The upstart all-electric racing championship only started in 2014, so is relatively early in its development compared with F1, which held its first race at Silverstone in 1950. The use of hydrogen fuel cells would be an exciting development in the evolution of auto racing and could even allow it to compete with F1 in the future.

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