Could hydrogen race cars drive innovation? | Automotive World

In September 2022, Vittoria Ferraris, Senior Director, Sector Lead Automotive EMEA at market research firm S&P, told Automotive World, “Full power hydrogen-fuelled nameplates, with the exception of the Toyota Mirai, are not targeted for mass production. Rather, they are developed by OEMs to test both technology and the market.” This indicates an alternative trajectory for hydrogen.

Toyota, which until December 2021 had resisted the industry trend to introduce electric vehicles (EVs), has been developing hydrogen-engine cars since 2014. In Japan’s only full-day race, the Fuji 24 Hours, Japan’s biggest automaker entered a specially prepared hydrogen-engine powered Corolla Sport race car on 30 May 2022.

The reason? Toyota wants to use motorsport to promote hydrogen as a viable alternative to electric cars. Although Toyota launched its hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Mirai sedan in 2022 for the consumer market, this is the first time the company has entered a hydrogen race—with the hopes of harnessing hydrogen racing technology.

Motorsports innovation

This concept of utilising hydrogen racing technology is also being undertaken by Shell, which shares a similar vision. “We have long-standing experience within motorsports, such as Formula One and Formula E,” says Marina von Lenning, Head of Partnerships at Shell. To take our hydrogen expertise to the next level, we think there is a lot to learn from motorsport; there’s a lot of innovation, which is why we’re working with Forze on hydrogen technology.” Forze, derived from Formula Zero (emissions), is a team of 30 part-time and 30 full-time working students based in Delft at the Technical University, who have been developing hydrogen-electric fuel cell-powered racing cars. It was this student-led team that built the world’s first hydrogen-electric race car in 2007.

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