Will hydrogen revolutionize motor sport?
Just before the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the LMPH2G hydrogen prototype will cover the legendary 13,62 km of the Sarthe circuit. It will be a symbolic demonstration tour because this technology is perhaps the future of endurance racing and even a test case for regular mobility.
The Swiss company Green GT launched the project in 2009. This revolutionary sports car has an electric motor that is powered by a fuel cell that works on hydrogen and air. This system only emits heat and water vapor. The green GT already covered 6.000 km of track testing and has an autonomy of 50 minutes. It delivers 480 kW (640 hp) and can reach about 300 km/h.”The objective was not to achieve maximum performance, but to show that it works,” said Jean-François Weber, director of Green GT. In 2024, this type of vehicle might participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours in a new hydrogen category.
More performance, less weight
The LMPH2G makes a noise similar to that of a giant washing machine, and it will make its first appearance in competition before the end of the year in the Michelin Le Mans Cup. “By 2024 we might participate in Le Mans, but first we have to reduce the weight of the car and increase performance,” J.F. Weber adds.
However, to succeed in competition, hydrogen technology will have to overcome some significant hurdles, starting with reducing fuel cell costs. “Because no rare raw materials are needed in production, the fuel cells can be produced anywhere. Once mass production starts, prices will fall rapidly,” Weber concludes. The second difficulty is the high production cost of hydrogen.
Test case for manufacturers
After the historic victories of a diesel engine (2006) and a hybrid prototype (2012) with Audi, the Le Mans 24 Hours race might also become in the future a test case for manufacturers using alternative drivetrains. With hydrogen, ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which organizes the competition) is probably tackling the most ambitious challenge in its almost 100-year history. It contributes to the protection of our planet and might profoundly transform the automotive industry.