Extreme E announces first hydrogen racing world championship

Extreme E

Extreme E has announced the first ever hydrogen racing world championship in Extreme H for 2025 – but it's unclear as to whether the electric championship will remain

Extreme E hydrogen 2

Extreme E – which has strong backing from hydrogen-keen Saudi Arabia – has announced it introduce a new category from 2025

Extreme E

Extreme E, the all-electric off-road series designed to highlight the earth’s environmental plight, has announced it will run the first ever hydrogen-powered category from 2025 which will become an FIA world championship from 2026.

The series, which has been masterminded for Formula E founder Alejandro Agag and is now in its third season, has announced a course of action agreement with the FIA towards an elevated sporting status and a new powertrain introduction – with a hydrogen prototype already having run his year.

Extreme H could replace its current Extreme E championship, but there currently remains some confusion over its future direction with organisers leaving the door open to both series running concurrently.

Extreme E hydrogen

The electric series is in its third season

Extreme E

“The FIA and Extreme E have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding setting out a framework to create the first-ever hydrogen off-road racing world championship,” the series said in a statement.

“This document is the first step in establishing a pathway for the hydrogen series, Extreme H, to become an FIA Championship from its inaugural season in 2025, with the intention that it will become an FIA World Championship from 2026, should the requisite criteria be met.”

The announcement represents somewhat of a coup for Agag, with Extreme E both attracting big name drivers such as Sébastien Loeb, Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah along with team owners such as Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button, but has struggled to build its audience and suffered from  a constantly fluctuating calendar, with the next round a repeat of the summer race’s Sardinia location after a proposed event in Argentina fell through.

Related article

The hydrogen idea was initially mooted for 2024, but is thought to have been delayed due to the slow pace of development with the prototype.

“Establishing alongside the FIA a world-first hydrogen racing world championship will be a momentous milestone for Extreme E and the new Extreme H series. Eventual accreditation as an FIA Championship and then an FIA World Championship means we would be amongst the top tier of global motorsport categories, and Extreme H would be the first-ever world championship racing series of its kind.

“What started as a conversation many years ago about racing in extreme environments, showcasing the incredible performance and innovation of E-SUVs, has now demonstrated enormous growth and further pioneering technical advances as we move forward with the transition to hydrogen and Extreme H – a world-first.”

Though Agag has spoken openly this year about the proposed move to hydrogen, the initial idea came as a surprise for a series which is only in its third year and is still establishing its brand as an electric series.

Hamilton X44 team Extreme E Hyrdro XPrix

Hydrogen is looking to be a way forward for Extreme E

Extreme E

However the series is heavily backed by Saudi Arabia, which is looking to transform its image from an oil nation to one which exports a diverse range of energy resources.

Speaking at Extreme E’s Scottish Hydro X-Prix event earlier this year, Agag conceded that finance played a part in the decision.

“For me to be able to tap into the sponsorship of all these companies that are betting on hydrogen is one of the reasons why we want to do it, because it has to be also business,” he said.

Related article

“I think with hydrogen we have a unique opportunity to offer a platform to all these sponsors that don’t have anywhere to go.

“If you’re the only platform, that’s interesting from the business point of view.”

There are thought to be mixed feelings in the Extreme E paddock about becoming a pure hydrogen championship – were Extreme E to be discontinued.

Former IndyCar champion and team boss Michael Andretti told Motor Sport “he would love” to be part of a hydrogen racing series while Nico Rosberg said he viewed the move as “the very positive” and that he was in talks with a manufacturer partnership as part of the change, but not all are so enthusiastic.

Extreme E Alejandro Agag picture

Agag has said hydrogen move is business-minded as well as part of an environmental message

Extreme E

Some squads are participating in Extreme E on the basis of promoting electric power such as Cupra and Hummer, though the latter has produced a hydrogen concept the vehicle, the H2H – it is unclear where a move solely to hydrogen would leave them.

The only car manufacturers currently producing hydrogen-powered vehicles available to customers are Toyota and Hyundai.

The Australian XE team, the sporting arm of the BYD electric passenger vehicles company, was set to join Extreme E this season but is thought to have backed out when the hydrogen talks gathered pace.