For the past 14 years, teams of engineering students from around the world have pitted their custom-built race cars against one another, at the Formula Student competition in the UK. This year’s event, which took place once again at the Silverstone Racing Circuit, saw a milestone in the event’s history – it was the first time that a hydrogen-powered car raced against petrol-burning competitors. The car was the Forze V, from The Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology, and it actually did pretty well ... out of a total of over 100 vehicles, it ended up tied for 29th place last Saturday.

The 280-kg (617-lb) Forze V is the latest version of the Forze to be built by Delft over the past several years. While previous models have competed in races designated specifically for alternative-fueled vehicles, this was the first time it has taken on gas-guzzlers – some of its competitors were also battery-powered. The car was entered for last year’s event, but technical problems kept it from competing.

Two motors power the Forze V, both of them receiving electrical current from a hydrogen/oxygen reaction in the vehicle’s fuel cell. Under standard driving conditions, that cell kicks out 18 kW or 24 HP of continuous power. Like many other electric vehicles, however, it also uses a regenerative system to harvest and store the energy that would normally be lost when braking. This addition gives it a temporary power boost up to 60kW or 80 HP.

Even without that boost, the car still manages a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), and a 0 to 96 km/h (60 mph) acceleration time of less than five seconds.

One 600-gram (1.3-lb) tank of gaseous hydrogen will keep it racing at full speed for about one hour. The only exhaust emitted by the car within that time is about three liters (3.17 US liquid quarts) of water.

Forze, by the way, stands for Formula Zero Team Delft.

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