Aston Martin has raced the world’s first hydrogen-powered race car in an FIA-sanctioned event, completing the first race-pace zero-emissions lap of the Nürburgring in the process with technology that could feasibly be adapted to its road cars in the future.
The Aston Martin Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S competed in the Nürburgring 24 Hours at the weekend, where it completed laps on hydrogen power alone both in qualifying and at the front of its class at times during the rain and fog-affected event.
The project was born one year ago when Aston Martin was approached by its technology partner, Alset Global, an advanced powertrain specialist that wanted to showcase its ability to adapt petrol engines to run on hydrogen.
Aston was keen, but rather than limit it to a road car demonstrator, the decision was taken to put it in a racer “to find out the limits and boundaries of the technology by racing it”, Aston’s special projects and motorsport director, David King, told Autocar.
“We have an eight-year history of using the Nürburgring 24 Hours race for engineering challenges,” he said. “Alset’s technology seemed plausible, so we decided to try and race it.”
The brief included completing a whole lap of the Nürburgring at race pace using purely hydrogen. A Rapide S was chosen because it offered the most packaging space for the four hydrogen tanks and because it would be the model most likely to be fitted with the technology should a road car application follow.
The Rapide S race car is essentially a road-going version with a stripped-out interior, stiffened suspension and an added rollcage.
The hardware changes necessitated by the hydrogen adaptation add about 80kg to the Rapide S’s weight. But King points out that this is considerably less than the weight of batteries that would be needed to complete a flat-out lap of the ’Ring on electric power, the other way of achieving zero tailpipe CO2 emissions. The overall weight of the car is about 1600kg.