Extreme H: The challenge of off-road racing, now with more hydrogen

By Colin Wood
Aug 31, 2023 | FIA, Hydrogen, Extreme H, Extreme E, Off-Road Racing

Photography Credit: Sam Bagnall

We have hydrogen-powered race cars and off-road racing, but an all-new racing series plans to combine the two into one championship: Extreme H.

Billed as the first of its kind, Extreme H is the result of a “non-binding Memorandum of Understanding” between the FIA and Extreme E, an off-road EV racing series that sees competitors using of spec electric SUVs.

What started as a conversation many years ago about racing in extreme environments, showcasing the incredible performance and innovation of E-SUVs, has now demonstrated enormous growth and further pioneering technical advances as we move forward with the transition to hydrogen and Extreme H–a world-first” says Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Extreme E.

If everything goes to plan, Extreme H will be an official FIA Championship starting in 2025, with plans to have the 2026 series become an FIA World Championship.

For now, the finer details of Extreme H are still being hammered out, but the series does plan “to have a prototype launched later this year ahead of the first season in 2025.”

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J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
8/31/23 3:19 p.m.

There seems to be a distinct divide on what should be the next way to power cars - electric or hydrogen or some combination of both. It'll be interesting to see this play out. Fun times.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/31/23 3:23 p.m.

In reply to J.A. Ackley :

I'm not totally convinced of the feasibility of hydrogen power (though I do think it is really cool), but I'm going to keep an open mind.

GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/31/23 4:07 p.m.

I'm generally not a fan of hydrogen cars, especially for general-purpose transportation, which is why considering the goals of Extreme E/H, this bothers me. Hydrogen has remained a footnote in the production car market for very good reasons.

Hydrogen cars offer the best selection of the worst downsides: high up-front vehicle costs and relatively long recharge times like a BEV, expensive fuel that is currently fossil-sourced like an ICE (actually worse in our era of E10 or E15 being the norm), and fuel availability, transport, and storage issues unique to hydrogen cars. Right now you can get gas at any gas station or electricity from most manmade structures, but there are only a handful of hydrogen stations outside of California.

The only reason this idea keeps coming back is because the fossil fuel industry keeps funding it. They're making virtually all of the hydrogen available to fuel these cars right now mostly by steam-reforming natural gas.

All these issues say that hydrogen doesn't make sense as a mainstream power source for cars. Not now, and as battery tech advances, even less so in the future.

californiamilleghia UberDork
8/31/23 4:29 p.m.

locally it seems to be about $15 a kilo for Hydrogen  , no idea how many miles that equals out to ?

I wonder how long these races will be ?

UPDATE:   from Google

A Toyota Mirai can travel about 76 miles per kilo in the city and 71 on the highway.


alfadriver MegaDork
8/31/23 5:45 p.m.

In reply to GameboyRMH :

According to Toyota, a full H2 fill is 3-5min. Just over gas. And shorter than electric, even with the best batteries as there will be a limit to the power passed through the main wire. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/31/23 6:14 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

My understanding is that you only get that fast a fill if the high pressure tank at the station is full. Once a car or two has filled, the station needs to repressurize the high pressure tank. Multiple cars filling at the same time can be problematic. Check out this Motor Trend long term test update to see how fun some of that can be: https://www.motortrend.com/reviews/2021-toyota-mirai-long-term-test-review-update-3-dispatches-hydrogen-fuelpocalypse/


Is this new series using liquid hydrogen in an ICE or a gaseous H2 fuel cell powering batteries? I'm assuming the second given the association with Extreme E.

The big thing that hydrogen power has going for it is that it's familiar. People who have used gas cars (ie, basically everyone) understand the concept. The promise of a fast fill is comforting, as people seem to be more worried about spending time in the middle of a trip than having to refill their car at a refilling station on a regular basis - the lack of gas station visits is Janel's #1 reason for owning an EV now that she's experienced it. But man, does hydrogen power have some serious problems. It's leaky. It's a nasty thing to make. It loves exploding. There is absolutely no infrastructure. You can't refill at home. 

alfadriver MegaDork
8/31/23 6:21 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Everting has its drawbacks. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/31/23 6:28 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

Of course. But you can't hold up "3-5 minute fill time!" without some major disclaimers. It's equivalent to having a gas station use gravity fed tanks instead of pumps, with a fairly slow refill of the tank. And the other drawbacks are pretty major - they don't really seem to come with many corresponding advantages for individual use.

For point-to-point trucking with central logistics, it works better.

alfadriver MegaDork
8/31/23 7:01 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

My point is that you can't equate h2 to electric as it's still closer to gas than what people project here for charging speeds. Which I personally question based on the electrical energy it would take.

Given where Toyota has been, seeing where they are going makes me think they have solutions. 

But I'll step out now, as few seem to want to hear the raw physics issues of high power charging. 

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
8/31/23 8:00 p.m.

Hummer should build a hydrogen powered SUV and call it a, uh,...H2?

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