WEC & ACO Introduce Hydrogen

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A vision of the future, as the ACO tries to clean up its output

Hydrogen power has taken another step closer to becoming the next big innovation pioneered at Le Mans. A car that emits just water lapped Spa-Francorchamps in September to demonstrate how close it is to being integrated into the World Endurance Championship and ACO’s rulebook.

The car was little more than a mule, a slightly dated ADESS LMP3 chassis adapted with distinctly futuristic looks and bodywork that carried the logos of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on its sidepods. But beneath was where the real interest lay.

The car, named LM PH2G, has been developed in partnership with GreenGT, a Swiss company based between Marseille and Toulon. GreenGT might ring a few bells with those who make the annual pilgrimage to La Sarthe each year, for an earlier variant of the car joined a demonstration lap in 2016 with Olivier Panis at the helm. It was also pulled from Garage 56 in 2013 because it wasn’t ready. And it appeared at Formula E’s 2016 Paris ePrix, looking like a home-built special that you’d see on Pikes Peak.

Driven by Yannick Dalmas at Spa during a break in the timetable of the European Le Mans Series finale, the car has evolved into a more conventional-looking prototype with 635bhp and top speed capability of more than 300kph (186.5mph).

BMW has been investigating developing a hydrogen-powered prototype for some time, and in June it was announced that Hyundai and Audi are collaborating to push the technology further forward.

In September, Daily Sportscar quoted the local Le Mans paper, Le Maine Libre, as reporting that “Audi is secretly working on a hydrogen-powered prototype for Le Mans.” Audi is yet to comment, having been contacted by Motor Sport.

As for this existing LM PH2G concept, it is “a simple hydrogen/hybrid vehicle” according to the ACO. It has four motors, two on each rear wheel. Hydrogen, 8.6kg of it, is stored in three pressurised tanks, one either side of the driver and the other behind. They fill the fuel cell, in which oxygen from the air and hydrogen combine by electrolysis to generate electricity. It has KERS, too, to reach those impressive power figures.

The only output, other than the aforementioned 635bhp, is water. On the day, bottles filled with water tapped from the exhaust were handed out to assembled guests…

A demonstration pitstop was performed at Spa to highlight how safe the energy is, for engineers as much as for the environment.

The pitstop was “completed by an operator wearing normal clothes”, read the ACO’s release. “With no need for overalls or helmet, they will simply have to fit the valve and job done!” Like they said, simple.