Green light for world’s first hydrogen-powered motorsport

27 February 2022

The all-electric, off-road motorsport Extreme E has announced plans to introduce a world first, with the introduction of a hydrogen-powered racing series set to debut in 2024, preceded by a prototype hydrogen-powered racing car to be unveiled next year.

Named Extreme H, the proposed series will run alongside the Extreme E competition and feature the same powertrain and car chassis used by the electric-powered vehicles. However, the Extreme H racing machines will feature a hydrogen fuel-cell, instead of a battery, as the principal energy source.

Current Extreme E cars are specially designed, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) sharing some design DNA with vehicles seen competing in off-road rallies such as the Dakar Rally, which are designed to take on some of the world’s most rugged terrain. They are driven by a 400kW power unit, and are  manufactured by Spark Racing Technology, the same people behind the SRT05e Gen2 chassis that is currently used in Formula E electric-car racing.

Aside from the unique all-electric, off-road challenge, Extreme E features a gender balance among the driver pairings in each team with male and female pilots sharing the competition. It includes stars of the World Rally Championship, such as Carlos Sainz and Sébastien Loeb, plus multiple off-road motorcycle champion Laia Sanz and X Games medallist Sara Price.

The Extreme H cars will be powered by hydrogen garnered from green sources using a combination of solar and water power, a technology already used behind the scenes in Extreme E competition, providing an energy source to the vehicle batteries.

Extension of Extreme E’s green message

By introducing a hydrogen-powered sister series, Alejandro Agag, the man behind Formula E and Extreme E, is taking his desire to move motorsport away from the internal-combustion engine (ICE) to the next step.

‘Extreme E was designed to be a testbed for innovation and solutions for mobility,’ commented Agag. ‘It has become increasingly clear to us that creating a hydrogen racing series is a natural evolution of our mission to showcase the possibilities of new technologies in the race to fight climate issues.

‘Together with the current Extreme E Teams, we will decide in the coming months the best way to integrate the hydrogen-powered cars into the racing weekend. Two separate categories, full transition to hydrogen or joint racing are all options on the table.’ Integral to Extreme E, and now Extreme H’s, unique selling point, is the fact that the race weekends are held in areas of the world that are under threat from climate change to bring attention to these issues. Venues visited so far include Greenland, Saudi Arabia, the Brazilian rainforests, and the Arctic Cicrle.

Alongside the competition, the sport promotes initiatives and promotional activities at each event, such as tree planting and plastic waste clean ups, designed to raise awareness and reinforce the series’ environmentalist message.

Big names excited about Extreme H

Since launching in early 2021, as well as attracting some of the world’s very best drivers, Extreme E has also caught the eye of some of the biggest manufacturer titles in world motorsport. For the inaugural season, ABT Sportline, Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, and Veloce Racing were just some of the global brands competing. Formula One world champions Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton fielded teams, and this year storied motorsports outfit McLaren joined the fray.

‘For Extreme E to be evolving into Extreme H is incredibly exciting and a brilliant step forward in such a short space of time for the series,’ commented 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button, owner of the JBXE Extreme E team. ‘To see racing of this calibre powered by hydrogen cells, which will allow for even more racing with less impact, is remarkable.’

As well as providing an historic chapter in global motorsports, the introduction of Extreme H will share some of the wider sustainability aspects built into the logistics of Extreme E. This includes using a refurbished ship for transporting the championship’s freight and logistics equipment, including race cars and paddock, using remote broadcast and digital streaming, and capping team personnel numbers present at events.

‘I think it is a good idea to have a new championship with hydrogen in close contact with Extreme E,’ said multiple Dakar Rally winner and ABT Cupra XE driver Nasser Al-Attiyah. ‘I think it will be interesting to see how well the new event goes. I hope everybody will enjoy it and it will also be fascinating for the manufacturers. There has been some pressure for hydrogen to be a part of the motorsport world, and I think it is a good idea so we will see what we can do.’

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