Red Bull Set To Enter Hydrogen-Class Racer At 2024 LeMans

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Published on January 27th, 2021 | by Jo Borrás

January 27th, 2021 by  

Red Bull Advanced Technologies announced plans to collaborate with Oreca on the creation of a next-generation hydrogen-fueled race car concept. If all goes well, the new car will be ready to contest the 2024 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s most famous endurance race.

Oreca07 LMP

Oreca07 LMP shown, courtesy Oreca.

Red Bull is most famous for two things, I think. First, it’s an energy drink. Second, though, it’s a world-championship winning Formula 1 racing team which has established itself as an engineering leader in previous collaborations with Renault, Honda, and Aston Martin. Red Bull hasn’t competed as a manufacturer at the 24 Hours of LeMans, however, so it makes sense to worth a proven winner like Oreca. As for the car itself, almost nothing is yet known, besides the fact that it will loosely follow the LMP class rules and be powered primarily by a hydrogen fuel cell as part of LeMans’ Mission H24, which hopes to “clean up” 24-hour endurance events like the one at the La Sarthe circuit in LeMans.

LeMans Mission H24 prototype

Mission H24 prototype in 2018, courtesy ACO.

The ACO — the organizing body behind the LeMans race — has been pushing hydrogen as a sensible, cleaner alternative to internal-combustion since at least 2018, when a prototype LMP car was first driven at Spa (above). The ACO has been using that Mission H24 language to describe the goal of developing a hydrogen (“H”) powered car that could compete against ICE cars over a 24-hour period. That means quick fill-up/low charging times, and they seem to believe that hydrogen (not BEVs) is the way forward.

I’m not entirely convinced, of course. But, if anyone out there can make a compelling case for a hydrogen racing series, it’s probably Red Bull. “I am delighted that Red Bull Advanced Technologies have been chosen by the ACO along with our partners ORECA to develop the concept of a hydrogen powered endurance racing car for Le Mans,” says Red Bull Advanced Technologies CEO and Formula 1 team principal, Christian “Mr. Ginger Spice” Horner. “(We) are well equipped to take on the challenge set by the ACO, having access to many of the tools used to design and develop the Red Bull Racing F1 car, along with significant experience on other cutting edge vehicle programs.”

All very good marketing and PR-speak, then. But what can we learn about the car? The best way to get a sense of what’s coming is probably to look at the basic LMPH (LeMans Prototype, Hydrogen) racing car as envisioned by the ACO itself for Mission H24. So check out the official class “goals” from the ACO and its basic “schema” for the car below, and then let us know what you think of a hydrogen-powered endurance racing class in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

  1. Electric motors: Four electric motors on the rear wheels (two on each) provide propulsion.

  2. Three hydrogen reservoirs: The dihydrogen (H2) is stored in three pressurized (700 bars) carbon filament tanks used to fuel the cell. The first two are placed either side of the cockpit and the third just behind the driver.

  3. Hydrogen fuel-cell: Comprises four stacks, at the core of which molecules of dihydrogen (H2, stored in the tanks) and oxygen atoms combine to form water molecules (H2O). This reaction produces heat, and electricity, which powers the car’s electric motor.

  4. The stack: A layered pile of 230 cells, bipolar plates and hydrogen porous membranes.

  5. Air Intake: The ambient air used to produce the reaction within the stacks enters through this vent. It is filtered, propelled towards the compressor, then the humidifier, before entering the stacks.

  6. Buffer batteries:Excess electricity produced by the hydrogen fuel-cell and by the KERS system (when braking) feeds into high-performance cells. The driver can therefore double the car’s acceleration potential (250–480 kw, the equivalent of about 650 hp).

  7. Transmission: A special, clutchless one-gear gear box manages rear wheels independently and is designed to reduce grinding.

  8. Compressor: Compresses and accelerates the air that enters via the vent (up to 300g per second). It operates at up to 100,000 revolutions per minute. The modulation of the air flow injected in the stacks alters the reaction and therefore determines the amount of electric power produced.

  9. Humidifier: Humidified air improves the interaction between oxygen atoms and dihydrogen molecules. The humidifier ensures the level of humidity of the air injected in the stacks remains constant.

  10. Radiators and cooling system.

  11. Exhaust: The only emission produced by the GreenGT LMPH2G is water (H2O). Steam escapes through four vents (one per stack) to the rear of the car, in the middle of the aerodynamic diffuser.

Source | Images: ACO, via Red Bull Advanced Technologies


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About the Author

I’ve been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and have been a part of the Important Media Network since 2008. You can find me here, working on my Volvo fansite, riding a motorcycle around Chicago, or chasing my kids around Oak Park.

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