Hydrogen ICE Tech Heads to Dakar Rally

A hydrogen ICE powertrain will be used to power one of the competitors in the iconic automotive testing ground of the Dakar Rally.

Automotive engineering supplier FEV has teamed up with motorsport’s, Oreca Magny-Cours, to develop a hydrogen internal combustion engine to compete in the world-famous desert racing rally in 2024. The announcement marks another milestone in hydrogen engine development, seen by several automaker’s as a vital stop-gap in reducing CO2 emissions from transportation leading up the expected future mass adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The French auto racing team, with multiple motorsport championships and vehicle development hallmarks to its credit, is pairing with FEV to help fast-track the development of an H2-combustion engine, suitable for Dakar Rally competition. FEV has almost 40 years of experience in hydrogen solutions and is widely considered the benchmark for hydrogen-based propulsion development, 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.

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 performance 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 its own specially prepared test benches.

Nadim Andraos, executive vice-president of FEV France, Spain and North Africa, said: “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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