FEV to Build Hydrogen ICE for Oreca’s Dakar Rally Challenge

Hydrogen burning ICE powertrains are coming to the prestigious Dakar Rally for the 2024 season thanks to a collaboration between FEV and race team Oreca Magny-Cours.

The announcement marks a milestone in both motorsports and H2 engine development. Not least because bringing the power potential of zero CO2 emission hydrogen to the forefront of public awareness and bolstering moves to accelerate the uptake of hydrogen infrastructure while also potentially extending the use of ICE powertrains beyond proposed bans on new combustion powertrains in the next decade.

As part of its involvement in the Dakar Future energy transition project, and following acknowledgement from France’s Vehicle of the Future automotive cluster, Oreca is stepping up its commitment to sustainable mobility. The French team, with multiple motorsport championships and vehicle development hallmarks to its credit, is pairing with FEV which claims almost 40 years of experience in hydrogen solutions and, along with many other forms of propulsion, it specializes in across various transportation sectors.

Because hydrogen is a carbon-neutral fuel, only minimal amounts of the emission components hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and soot are produced from burnt lubricant. The reduction of oil consumption is thus another focus of development. In traditional fossil-fueled ICE, the main exhaust gas component is nitrogen oxide (NOx). Thanks to its very high laminar rate of combustion and broad ignition limits, hydrogen allows for lean burning with a large amount of excess air. Its low exhaust gas temperatures mean that, even without exhaust gas aftertreatment, the level of NOx is already below the current limits. Aftertreatment is an effective means of further reducing NOx emissions. Additionally, hydrogen engines are capable of achieving power outputs comparable to standard gasoline engines, essential for competitive motorsports.

The FEV-Oreca partnership will be presented in two phases. The first, which is already underway, addresses technical requirements and simulation efforts, and is being managed entirely by FEV. The second phase is dedicated to designing, producing and testing a prototype, and will be managed by Oreca using their own specially-prepared test benches.

Serge Meyer, director of ORECA Magny-Cours, said: “Oreca continues its exploration of alternative energies in the context of motorsports applications. It is with great conviction that we have chosen FEV as our partner to better understand the combustion of hydrogen and accelerate our development.”

Nadim Andraos, executive vice-president of FEV France, Spain and North Africa, added: “FEV is already deeply knowledgeable in the area of hydrogen, so this collaboration makes perfect sense. We are very excited to join forces with Oreca since not only does it reinforce our commitment to zero-CO2 mobility but it also allows us to hone our expertise by purposefully targeting one of the most demanding environments possible – the Dakar Rally. It is an excellent example of how motorsports still plays an important role in development that subsequently benefits the masses through implementing solutions in series production.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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