A brief announcement from the ACO President Pierre Fillon and FIA Endurance Commission President Richard Mille has confirmed that the future regulations for hydrogen-fuelled cars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans will now encompass Hydrogen combustion technology as well as retaining the option for hydrogen fuel cell tech.
The ACO has been at the forefront of a drive to introduce hydrogen as a fuel source in the sport since 2018. Since then, there have been progressive steps in development together with its technology partners on demonstration projects, whilst continuing dialogue with interested manufacturers.
No details are yet given by the ACO on interest from manufacturers, but recent media reports in France seem to confirm that the re-existing interest from Hyundai in fielding a fuel-cell powered car in the coming years is still alive. Sources close to Toyota meanwhile have suggested to DSC that its current technology demonstrator racer utilising hydrogen combustion marks the early stages of developing that route towards more capable race (and road going) machinery.
Speaking at a press conference at the Fuji 24H, Pierre Fillon confirmed the expansion of the scope of the hydrogen regulations. It was greeted very positively by the newly appointed CEO of Toyota, Koji Sato who, in answer to a question posed about the opportunity presented by the regulations said:
“The ACO has been positive about Hydrogen as an energy from an early stage. There has been a very practical and realistic effort and we have learned a lot from the ACO.
“In our previous communications we have talked about how we have been engaging ourselves with hydrogen engines and the attractiveness of hydrogen engines, though we do have some challenges with hydrogen engines.
“Thank you for the announcement today, it is a very big motivation and is of significance for us at Toyota Motor Corporation. I am very positive about this opportunity. I cannot make any definitive and specific statements but most likely in the near future I hope I can make a very big announcement with a smile on my face!”
At present the line from the ACO is that it is “in close collaboration with the FIA, working towards the creation of a class for hydrogen-powered prototypes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the next few years.”
There is continued development too on MissionH24, a joint venture between the ACO and GreenGT, conducting research and development in areas such as safety, performance and refuelling.
Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: Since 2018, the hydrogen ecosystem has evolved enormously. We are learning by doing. We are exploring possibilities. And that is exactly the objective we set ourselves five years ago when we launched MissionH24. The fuel cell was initially chosen for its potential, which is still relevant. Today, the hydrogen internal combustion engine is also presented as a possibility for manufacturers. The 24 Hours of Le Mans regulations have always advocated freedom and variety. As such, we are officially announcing that both technologies, fuel cell and hydrogen internal combustion engine, will be accepted and authorised for manufacturers wishing to enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Hydrogen category. I would like to highlight the tremendous work carried out by MissionH24, alongside the ACO and FIA. We are all aware of the challenges facing the future of motorsport, and of the need to decarbonise mobility, and we are addressing them together.
Richard Mille, FIA Endurance Commission President: Hydrogen as a power source is yet to be fully explored in motor sport. However, given the fact that it offers a variety of options in terms of storage types and powertrains, it makes for a very interesting prospect. Implementing sustainable power sources across motorsport competition is one of the key targets of the FIA and part of our long-term roadmap. The key is to address the best solutions for different motorsport disciplines. Given the nature of endurance racing, hydrogen is one of the most suitable options, therefore the FIA fully supports the ACO’s MissionH24 project. We are working with them, sharing our know-how and expertise, to introduce a new power source to endurance racing.