Motorsport is in a funny place these days, fighting to find its identity in a world that is increasingly turning its back on gas-powered performance. Historic series such as NASCAR and IndyCar are struggling to keep up with the times as hybrid and electric power takes over. In contrast, a new wave of electric racing series have sprung up to try and shake up the status quo. And now, there’s a new hydrogen-powered series demanding your attention.
That’s right, we’re branching away from gas- and electric-powered motorsport to talk about a new off-road series that will put hydrogen power at its heart. And don’t worry, I already know that you all hate it.
But, to try to change your opinions on the latest eco-minded motorsport, here’s a bit more information about the newly crowned Extreme H off-road racing series.
First up, it’s from Alejandro Agag, the man behind the single-seater Formula E championship, off-road series Extreme E and soon-to-launch electric boat race, E1. Clearly, he’s a man with a penchant for electric motorsport.
Well now, he’s heading up Extreme H, which will run in tandem with Extreme E at off-road races around the world.
At the launch of the new series, he said: “Extreme E was designed to be a testbed for innovation and solutions for mobility. It has become increasingly clear to us that creating a hydrogen racing series is a natural evolution of our mission to showcase the possibilities of new technologies in the race to fight climate issues.”
In the coming weeks, the sport and its teams will discuss the best way to integrate the new hydrogen-powered series into its race weekends. The addition of the new sport could see Extreme E and Extreme H operate as “two separate categories, full transition to hydrogen or joint racing are all options on the table.”
And that’s pretty exciting, because Extreme E has so far thrown up some dramatic racing, impressive rivalries and monumental crashes in its first season alone. Now, as it prepares to enter season two, it is already preparing for its future.
While still very much in the development stage, Extreme H says it will use the same Odyssey 21 cars that Extreme E uses. But, a hydrogen fuel cell will replace the battery as the principal energy source.
The series says green hydrogen sources will be used to power the Extreme H fuel cells, created using a combination of solar and water. According to a release, this same technology is used to provide electricity for Extreme E races when events take place in remote locations.
Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button, who owns the JBXE Extreme E team, said: “For Extreme E to be evolving into Extreme H is incredibly exciting and a brilliant step forward in such a short space of time for the series. To see racing of this caliber powered by Hydrogen cells, which will allow for even more racing with less impact, is remarkable.”
And yes, it is remarkable to see motorsport approaching these technologies to uncover ways we can continue racing when the oil dries up. But they don’t come without their own issues.
For starters, you need electricity to separate the hydrogen atoms from oxygen in water. If that isn’t done using clean energy, then you can kiss goodbye to any credibility you might be clamoring for.
Additionally, a study published in the journal Nature recently found that hydrogen fuel cells were less efficient than electric battery tech due to the infrastructure around creating hydrogen and generating electricity.
Sure, sports like Extreme E and Formula E have made steps to minimize their environmental impact through legacy projects, off-setting initiatives and other eco-focused schemes. But we’re still a long way from truly sustainable motorsport.
Yes, it’s a form of entertainment and its global emissions aren’t a patch on other industries. But without a shift towards electricity or other sustainable fuels, motorsport risks securing its spot on the chopping block.
And when drivers like Tanner Foust are out here saying electric racing is the future of our sport, maybe it’s time to put our prejudices aside and give it a go?
Now, get on board with this weekend’s season-opening Desert E Prix to get used to our electrically-charged future.