World's first hydrogen-powered racecar to debut this weekend

The University of Hertfordshire's hydrogen-powered race car

July 15, 2007 Alternative engine technologies face several challenges in the battle to be viewed as a serious alternative to the internal combustion engine - and a key hurdle is the perception that they can't deliver enough power and performance to compete with their fossil-fuel burning counterparts. How better to dispel such fears than to race a hydrogen-powered car against petrol-powered competitors? The first hydrogen-powered race car will take to the track this weekend in the worldwide Formula Student category, and if the notion of green car racing catches on, we can look forward to watching the ingenuity of the racing community making some significant contributions to the development of emission-free consumer cars in the near future.

A £5,000 grant from the Royal Society of Chemistry has made it possible for John Goddard and James Waters, two PhD students in the University of Hertfordshire’s new Sustainable Energy Technologies Centre to convert a Formula Student racing car into a hydrogen-powered vehicle. Formula Student is a worldwide challenge for engineering students to design and build small, single-seat racing cars. It forms part of their academic studies and culminates in a competition to be held this weekend where teams from all over the world test the strength of their designs in the racing arena.

This is the first time that a hydrogen-powered racing car has been developed anywhere in the world. It will produce zero CO2 emissions, run on ‘green’ hydrogen produced from farm waste and is expected to be equally as fast as a petrol-fueled car.

The engineers are very optimistic about the car’s chances in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Formula Student Race when it races on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 July at Silverstone. This particular car, before the hydrogen conversion, won the Best UK Car category in the competition in 2005.

“Usually if a car is run on hydrogen, we would expect it to lose performance,” said John. “But, in this case, we have found a way to get optimum performance from the engine.”

“We have had to work with the IMechE to develop a whole new set of rules and guidelines for hydrogen cars because this has never been done before,” James added.

The University set up the Sustainable Energies Technology Centre in December 2006 to develop research into sustainable technologies and other uses of hydrogen.

The hydrogen-powered car will be a key feature of the Royal Society of Chemistry Week which will take place from 3-11 November.

We wish these innovators the best of luck for a great result in the weekend's racing.

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