It was the ultimate test for the student built hydrogen powered racing car from TU Delft: a lap at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. With former Formula 1 racer Jan Lammers at the wheel, the Forze VI raced through 176 challenging corners, and completed the 21-kilometre track in under 11 minutes. Never before has any other racing car propelled by a hydrogen fuel cell completed the track that fast, making a clear statement about the potential of this technology and its place in the automotive industry.
Lammers had some resounding words for the racing team: “It is truly inspiring how the students have designed and built a race car that also handles so well, even more so considering the highly advanced technology it contains. I tip my hat to them.”
The Forze VI was designed by a group of over 50 students from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Together they have dedicated two and a half years in making a hydrogen electric racing car, one of its kind. “The successful lap is an enormous motivator for the team,” said team leader Menno Dalmijn. “The circuit is not dubbed ‘The Green Hell’ for nothing, as it pushes all race cars to their absolute limits. With the lap data gathered, the analysis will aid the team in reaching the higher power limits of the race car, which so far has only driven on half power.”
The Forze VI reached top speeds of 160 km/h, but the students believe that it’s capable of doing much more. With some optimisations and tweaks, the car will theoretically reach a top speed of 220 km/h, along with 0 to 100km/h acceleration within a mere 4 seconds. “And the best part is that the only by-product we produced was pure water, meaning a carbon footprint of zero,” added Dalmijn.
In the race car’s fuel cell; hydrogen and oxygen are allowed to react with each other under controlled circumstances. The cell uses the gasses to produce electricity directly with an efficiency of 60%. Without any other conversions, the produced electricity directly powers the electric motors. For this reasons, this technology has one huge advantage above electric cars with batteries: operational range. Similar to gasoline, the hydrogen tanks can be refuelled within minutes, allows long distance travel for electric cars to be highly practical.
The focus of the Formula Zero Team Delft has been the development of hydrogen technologies since 2008. In the coming years, they will go head to head with combustion engines in various races, with the ultimate goal to participate in the 24 Hour race of Le Mans, using nothing but hydrogen.