Alpine Hydrogen ICE Racer Refines Tech for Road Cars

Renault's performance brand to race hydrogen ICE powertrain at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.

Paul Myles, European Editor

May 10, 2024

2 Min Read

Alpine presents the first rolling version of its hydrogen race car a day before it competes in the TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps endurance race this weekend.

The Alpine Alpenglow Hy4, first seen as a concept at the 2022 Paris Motor Show, sets out to prove that race cars can be competitive burning hydrogen fuel in an internal-combustion engine. Alpine says it chose ICE technology over a hydrogen fuel cell to provide the driver with a traditional feel of the car’s powertrain to extract the maximum performance on track. While Alpine sees ICE hydrogen powertrains currently focused on racing applications, it acknowledges they could be applied to niche performance products alongside the hydrogen hybrid powertrains that its parent company, Renault, is developing for mainstream vehicles.

The Alpenglow Hy4 makes its debut using an LMP3 carbon chassis powered by a 2.0L turbocharged in-line 4-cyl. delivering 335 hp fueled by H2 dihydrogen with direct injection at 40 bar pressure and water injection to reduce NOx emissions. It can reach a maximum of 7,000 rpm and is coupled to a sequential racing gearbox with a centrifugal clutch. The performance is comparable to the gasoline equivalent, with a top speed of approximately 168 mph (270 km/h).

One of the challenges of burning hydrogen efficiently in ICE powerplants is that, unlike gasoline, it is injected in pure gas form instead of liquid droplets and has a very wide range of concentrations to provide lean or rich mixtures. To avoid abnormal combustion, a homogeneous mixture has to be prepared and temperature in the combustion chamber strictly controlled.

Safety is another challenge, so three Alpenglow tanks Hy4 store hydrogen in gas form, each holding 6.42 lbs. (2.9 kg) under 700 bars of pressure. They are located in the side pods and behind the cockpit, in ventilated compartments and sealed off from the interior. A pressure regulator reduces the pressure to 200 bars before lowering it to 40 bars for direct injection into the combustion chamber.

Alpine says the car is a “mobile lab” for the technology and is developing a V-6 engine specifically designed in-house to be powered by hydrogen. It will be unveiled in a second rolling version before the end of the year.

Bruno Famin, vice-president of Alpine Motorsports, says: “As part of our active participation in decarbonizing motorsports, we see the hydrogen internal-combustion engine as an extremely promising solution. We know that hydrogen will be an essential step in decarbonizing the next generations of Endurance cars, and could also be for Formula 1 cars, particularly by switching to liquid storage for greater compactness and performance. The Alpenglow prototype perfectly illustrates this, a genuine technological laboratory for developing tomorrow's hydrogen engines.”

About the Author(s)

Paul Myles

European Editor, Informa Group

Paul Myles is an award-winning journalist based in Europe covering all aspects of the automotive industry. He has a wealth of experience in the field working at specialist, national and international levels.

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