Formula 1 team Alpine has launched an evaluation study to determine whether hydrogen power could be the best direction for the sport’s long-term future. Hydrogen Industry Leaders investigates if hydrogen power in Formula 1 is possible.
The FIA recently signed off plans for the next generation of Formula 1 (F1) engines from 2026-2030 to be turbo hybrids run on fully sustainable fuels, but there remain debates about where the sport should position itself long-term as road cars transition to electric.
When it comes to becoming more sustainable, Alpine has highlighted that there is one option that could be viable, and this is a switch to hydrogen power. The French manufacturer has now begun a detailed look into the pros and the cons of using this type of power unit in F1.
Using Hydrogen Will Preserve The Entertainment Of F1
Speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com, Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said that, with fully electric engines not an option for F1 for a while, that evaluating hydrogen as a long-term solution has benefits:
“I don’t think the full electric [engine] is ready,” he said. “It might be perhaps in 15 years from now, but I don’t see that happening in the next one or two iterations of the regulations.
“That’s why we are investigating, because I believe manufacturers and especially PU manufacturers have the duty to shape regulations and to bring solutions to the table, hydrogen as a fuel.
“To me, and to us, it’s kind of like a good way to kill a lot of birds with one stone. It’s cleaner, for sure. It’s not fully clean, granted, but it’s much more improved compared to traditional fuel for sure. It’s abundant, that’s for sure, whereas organic or synthetic fuel can be limited in terms of supply and or cost of producing.
“Plus it preserves one thing, which is the noise. Okay perhaps in like 20 years people will forget about that, because the new generations couldn’t care less and they’ll be used to cars being silent in the street, but at the moment, this is what makes that show as well.”
We must not forget that F1 is a sport i.e. entertainment. It’s a business for sure. But that business is built on people loving it and watching it and enjoying it. I can’t not think about that. So we are pursuing that path.
Alpine Hope To Inspire Governing Bodies With Hydrogen
Rossi revealed that the aim of Alpine’s study was to properly understand if hydrogen power could deliver the necessary performance levels F1 requires.
If so, he said he hoped it could then showcase the technology, potentially by using the new-technology Garage 56 option at the Le Mans 24 Hours – to prove what a good option it is to motorsports. He said: “We are going to play our role to inspire others, governing bodies for sure,
“We would love to be able to showcase, but first prove to ourselves, that it works, because we still need to investigate that it’s more than a belief or a prophecy.
“If it does [work], then we want to possibly demonstrate that either, say at Garage 56 in Le Mans or around the Nurburgring with one of our road cars that will be fitted with a hydrogen fuelled internal combustion engine. This will then perhaps inspire the governing bodies that there is a path there.”
If Porsche, Ferrari and others are following other leads, so be it. But it’s even better because we will bring to the table more options than just one.
Motorsport Will Help To Build Confidence In Using Hydrogen
Hydrogen is vital to reaching our sustainability goals and motorsport will work to build confidence among vehicle manufacturers and people.
For example, over the last few years, the Formula E Championship has become the first sport with a net zero carbon footprint, and it provides a platform for developing EV technology and sustainable mobility.
It shows that once innovations have been proved successful in motorsport, they can be replicated by car manufacturers and implemented in designs to create not only more sustainable but better-performing vehicles. Showcasing the potential of hydrogen is essential as it will be educating for both manufacturers and consumers.
Hydrogen Will Be Seen In Motorsport In The Next Few Years
Alpine’s evaluation study to determine whether hydrogen power could be the best direction for the sport’s long-term future isn’t the first-time motorsport has dipped into the idea of hydrogen.
Hydrogen will be seen in motorsport as soon as 2024, with an off-road championship launching called Extreme H. The championship will see vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells and be a world-first for motorsport.
The same powertrain and chassis in Extreme E will be used in the Extreme H car but the key differentiating factor in Extreme H will be that the hydrogen fuel cell will replace the battery as the principal energy source.
Hydrogen Industry Leaders recently spoke to Ali Russell, Chief Marketing Officer at Extreme E and talked about Extreme H and the impact it will have.
To hear more about hydrogen in motorsport, highlighting world issues through using hydrogen, creating a new audience for the sport and more, click here.