LONDON – The Extreme E electric off-road racing series whose team owners include Formula One champions Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button, is planning a switch to hydrogen as Extreme H from 2025.
Founder Alejandro Agag told Reuters on Thursday that a decision would be made in the next few months but teams were supportive.
Those involved include famed motorsport brands McLaren, Andretti and Ganassi.
“Extreme H will become a world championship. Extreme E will continue running in 2024 and probably that will be its last year,” said Agag.
The Paris-based governing FIA and Extreme E announced last week a non-binding memorandum of understanding to create the first hydrogen off-road world championship.
As part of that framework, Extreme H would become an FIA championship in 2025 and then a full world championship from 2026.
Extreme H could run alongside Extreme E in an alternative scenario but Agag said that was unlikely to happen.
“In all likelihood I think hydrogen is the big bet for Extreme E,” said Agag, who also founded the Formula E city-based electric single-seater series.
“We want to become a test bed for hydrogen not only inside the car but also outside the car.”
Extreme E, with identical SUVs and male and female drivers in every lineup, launched in 2021 as an off-road zero-emission rally series.
It aims to raise awareness about climate change and promote sustainability by racing in remote and damaged environments around the world.
“Extreme E needs a new direction, in a way,” said Agag.
“Probably this is because already Formula E is there for batteries and after three years racing we needed to find a unique selling point for Extreme E that we haven’t found in the first three years.
“If we can combine everything we’ve learned with a new direction where we become really unique, (then) I think we get all the lessons learned and the heritage and a championship that is there and working and we transform it in the middle of the new mega-trending mobility which is hydrogen.”
Agag said Hamilton, Rosberg and Button were “very positive” about the proposed change.
“They are all of course looking at what will be also the partnership opportunities around hydrogen, how many people can we bring along with us, how many companies are going to be excited about joining a hydrogen championship,” he added.
“Many of the oil companies are not involved in electric cars as they transition but they are all betting big on green hydrogen. So why not have them join also the championship?
“I think this change presents fantastic commercial opportunities to bring along companies that don’t look like an obvious participant into the decarbonization transition but they are and we provide a platform also for those companies.”
Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water through electrolysis using renewable energy but is currently small-scale and costing up to five times more than hydrogen derived from natural gas.
Agag said the plan, at least initially, was to use electric cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells rather than hydrogen combustion.
“At the moment the combustion technology is not ready yet in the way we would need to use it for racing, so we are going to focus on fuel cell technology,” he said. REUTERS
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