Le Mans organizers to welcome hydrogen LMP1 cars

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I am, admittedly, archaic, old school, backward thinking and just about every other kind of terrible you can think of but at the core of my observation, we (humanity) are much better at creating on-demand energy than we are storing it for later use. It’s not that we can’t store energy, we do, but it just isn’t as efficient as our ability to carry a fuel and create on-demand energy. It’s been my criticism of hybrid and electric cars from day one. Not that they aren’t cool tech and part of our evolution in mobility but that when we decide to build our entire mobility platform on stored energy instead of created energy, it produces a product inferior to the ones we already have and have used for decades.

The charging time is another major issue and battery disposal is a third. It seems to me that we need a new type of fuel instead of a new storage device. Don’t get me wrong, perfecting storage systems is a great errand and much needed too but I am intrigued by the FIA and the Le Mans organizer the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) decision to allow hydrogen in the LMP1 category as AUTOSPORT reveals.

“Hydrogen is clearly a direction we want to follow in the future.

“It has advantages in terms of zero emissions, performance, autonomy [the distance a car can travel on an amount of fuel] and short-loading time.

“This is why we have set up the working group, but we know that the introduction of hydrogen is complex problem to solve.”

There is also an allowance of bio fuels in 2018 as well and the concept here is for biomethane-powered cars.

Whether hydrogen or bio fuels, the technology is fiercely complex and in some of the models I have seen, they are still using batteries to store energy created from hydrogen or other means of energy creation. For me, this defeats the purpose because any time you convert energy, you lose potential energy and that’s usually in the form of heat. Ultimately one would think that the model of the internal combustion engine is, while scoffed and laughed at, one of humanities most incredible inventions. Replacing this century-old technology has proven quite difficult and that’s with today’s best and brightest brains. Surely there will be a way to carry relatively non-volatile fuel and create energy on demand instead of trying to store it and then re-deploy it?

If there is a way, the WEC series LMP1 may be a great proving ground for it.



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Tom Firth

Yes but the ACO also states that a lot of these alternative fuels, ideas etc are something they want to explore in the more distant future, the immediate future (2017) seems to be more about pushing the apron further with the current Hybrid technology, and reducing the fuel flow further, but is much more conservative than the more extreme futuristic plans the ACO would like to bring in, including Hydrogen. The problem been sure, it’s great to have this influx of new technologies, absolutely, but its a balancing act on spending. LMP1 budgets have already increased so dramatically that Peugeot… Read more »

Negative Camber

It’s a tough call for sure. Again, we can see the galactic cost increase in technology with hybrid in F1 and if the ACO keep going down a path of higher and higher tech, the privateers will drop out of WEC as well. It is about finding a balance and to be fair, the ACO has done a better job of that than the FIA with F1. Let’s hope they keep things under control.

Tom Firth

Hmmm. Not sure they really have, are scrambling now to keep the few privateer P1 cars in the series by giving them even more breaks next year with a raft of rules they’ve announced today. In some ways have neglected the privateer somewhat. Then again you could argue, that the ACO could afford to neglect its P1 privateers somewhat, as it has P2 as its privateer class. Now that the crunch is coming with regards costs, its swinging back the other way on the pendulum to them ‘caring’ about privateers. As for biofuel, I think it depends on the definition,… Read more »

Paul Riseborough

I think a lot of the cost increase in F1 associated with the move to hybrid power in F1 was avoidable if the FIA had mandated a cost cap on engine supply from the beginning. You can’t tell me adding a turbocharger, larger battery, additional MGU and control electronics has to add 2M to the manufacturing cost per engine, so its being driven by what the manufacturers are choosing to spend on R&D. We have an ‘arms race’ between large manufacturers who will spend whatever it takes to try and beat the opposition and a token system that encourages them… Read more »

Negative Camber

I definitely understand your point Paul. I think that was going to be tough to do in the beginning because the bulk of the R&D was all up front committed costs by the manufacturers. They needed to recoup the cost of designing and building a brand new engine. Only now, after two years of supply revenue, they are willing to slowly lower the cost of the supply contracts. I don’t think the reduction is fast enough to be honest but I understand why they don’t want it ramped down quickly. To be fair to the hybrid fans, if they would… Read more »

charlie white

Wouldn’t the addition of hydrogen fuel bring in at least 1 manufacturer like BMW into the sport?

Tom Firth

BMW is, or has been looking at LMP1, but it has been looking for a while, and by that I mean its almost like Audi might enter F1.

Hydrogen might bring them in, but it might also just lead to more of the usual politicking from BMW and no programme at the end of it.

Negative Camber

Doesn’t Toyota have a strong hydrogen program?

Tom Firth

They have the Mirai project, which Dave will tell you all about its hillclimbing exploits. Honda has a larger programme overall though i think or did regarding hydrogen.


In the UK there is an increasing number of wind and solar farms producing electricity. Unfortunately these renewable energy sources produce energy only when the wind blows or when the sun is out. In some areas, on a sunny day, there is more generating capacity than there is demand. There is a need for some energy storage system so that we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels just to generate electricity. After all we need some to power our historic racing cars. Hydrogen could be such a storage system, but the conversion from electricity and water to hydrogen and… Read more »

Tom Firth

With regards BOP, I’d say the answer is ‘complicated’ and I don’t think the FIA has the information yet to say how it would actually be performance balanced, we had a hydrogen garage56 project but it never actually competed, or perhaps it has done a lap now but several years overdue.

I imagine BMW or A.N other would enter a Garage56 project potentially running Hydrogen and allow the FIA to get data from that, in say 2019 before its introduced as regs in the future?

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