I swear, every time Extreme E announces a new part of the sport, it becomes incrementally cooler. On Thursday the new electric off-road racing series showed off its 100 percent clean energy hydrogen fuel cell generator, which will be hauled around the world to power each of the vehicles for the full race weekend. In between sessions, when all 11 of these race vehicles need to charge up, they’ll fire up the FC generator and pump electrons into each of them.
I am not yet convinced that hydrogen fuel cells are a viable option for powering individual cars, but as a power generator, effectively using chemistry as a big battery, it could have a future in providing clean energy to remote towns, villages, and houses which currently rely on fossil fuel burning for their power generation. Rather than hauling a heavy and intensely expensive battery array with hundreds of kilowatt hours to every race, this generator will stay aboard the Extreme E container ship and simply be refilled with hydrogen ahead of each race.
Because the series is running races in extremely remote parts of the world, from the middle of the desert to a glacier to the rain forest, it needs clean and reliable power to support not only the races, but the entire operation. While hydrogen is quite energy intensive to split from oxygen in a water atom, the series can effectively use wind or solar power generation to do so, allowing the ultimate power production to be extremely clean, and it can be stored for use at a later date. Or in another place which may not have sun or wind to produce that energy. Hydrogen as a battery is the future of hydrogen.
This kind of technology could also be used as a temporary way to flesh out the national power grid, or to provide EV charging in a blackout, or any number of other uses for electricity when the grid is out of contact. I could definitely see something like this catching on for sea travel, especially with solar or wind as a primary power supply.
The series will kick off in just a couple of months, the first weekend of April, in the Saudi Arabian desert. I’m really looking forward to it, if you couldn’t tell.