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WEC | Hydrogen 2024

The Hydrogen 2024 future of Le Mans 

A Hydrogen-powered class is planning to be introduced into the 24 Hours of Le Mans for 2024. To achieve this, the ACO and GreenGT have set up an initiative called MissionH24 which has developed the first prototype, the LMP2HG. This revolutionary racer will be taking to the track for the 3rd time, racing on the Bugatti circuit on the 28th of March, as part of the Les Assises de I’Automobile conference.

So, how does hydrogen work in a Racecar? Here are the top 5 facts you need to know…

1. Safety

You would not be alone in thinking that hydrogen is a dangerous gas to be packaging into a racecar. However, modern safety measures and standards have now contained any risks associated with hydrogen. So much so, that fire prevention professionals now consider hydrogen safer than any other fuel used in open air. For example, the refuelling pitstop at the first demonstration at Spa last year was completed by an operator wearing normal clothes. There was no need for overalls or a helmet – just the simple connection of the valve.

2. Hydrogen fuel cell

A hydrogen fuel cell is an electromechanical cell that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through the electromechanical reaction of hydrogen fuel with oxygen. This differs from batteries because a fuel cell continuously sustains the chemical reaction using fuel and oxygen from air, whereas the chemical energy in a battery comes from the chemicals already present in the battery cell.

Electroloysis Diagram
Diagram illustrating the electrolysis process within a hydrogen fuel cell

The LMPH2G hydrogen fuel cell is made up of four stacks (each containing 230 cells) bipolar plates and hydrogen porous membranes. The hydrogen is stored in three pressurised carbon filament tanks, with two either side of the cockpit and the third located behind the driver.

3. Hydrogen supply

The dihydrogen or H2 is stored in three 700 bar pressurised carbon filament tanks. As these containers have to be of cylindrical shape for better pressure resistance, rather than conventional fuel bags which can be of any shape, this creates a packaging challenge, particularly with the monocoque designed to match the internal dimensions of current LMP3. Due to the current safety regulations for pressure vessels, each tank weighs around 100kg.

LMP2HG_Hydrogen_Cannisters
The hydrogen is stored in three pressurised canisters, with two located either side of the driver and one behind 

4. Air supply

Before entering the stacks of the fuel cell, ambient air is filtered and then propelled towards the compressor. This compressor operates at 100,000rev/min and compresses and accelerates the air to up to 300g per second. The air is them humidified to ensure it remains at a constant humidity before finally entering the stacks of the fuel cell.

5. Motors

The LMPH2G will be rear wheel driven via two motors at each wheel. These will also function as an alternator which will store additional energy in buffer batteries during braking. With all the power provided through the motors this allows for electronically controlled traction control and torque vectoring.

Checkout the full technical analysis of the LMP2HG in our March issue!

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