World’s first: hydrogen-electric race car beats the petrol-powered competition

The “Forze VIII”, a hydrogen-electric Le Mans-style prototype, became the first-ever hydrogen-electric vehicle to beat petrol-powered cars in an official race Sunday evening. The car, that was designed, built, tested and raced by a group of students from the Delft University of Technology, finished second in the Supercar Challenge at the TT Circuit in Assen, the Netherlands.

Picture by Hexashots

Proud to finish on the podium

In a field of 43 petrol-powered race cars, the pink race car started the last race of the weekend from the fourth position. After a strong start, the car climbed quickly from fourth to second in its class. Within a few laps, driver Leo van der Eijk had already built up a 15-second gap between him and the third position. The team was able to keep up the pace for the rest of the race and secured a podium position. “We’re incredibly proud of what we have accomplished today. Never before did a hydrogen-electric race car beat other cars in an official competition – let alone the kind of petrol-powered race cars we were racing against today. This podium finish is the result of not just one year, but twelve years of dedication, faith and hard work. Being a student team makes it feel almost unreal to be the first to ever accomplish this” says Zhi Wei Cai, Team Manager.

Learned a lot from Zandvoort

Mid-July the team also faced gasoline-driven competitors at the future Formula 1 Circuit of Zandvoort. The team was unable to finish the first race because of technical difficulties, but the second race was promising. However, after setting the fastest lap time, the car shut down for a brief moment, causing the Forze VIII to drop from the first to the last position. Not having enough time to reclaim the places they lost, the team finished last.

Zhi Wei Cai, Team Manager: “After our race in Zandvoort, we knew we had the pace. The biggest challenge for this weekend was to maintain that speed for an entire race. That’s why we worked harder than ever before in the last weeks to maximise our performance here in Assen. It was worth it, this time we finally secured a spot on the podium.

Picture by Hexashots

0-100 km/h in less than 4 seconds, emission-free

The student-built Forze VIII is a hydrogen-electric car. Just like battery-electric cars, the wheels are driven by electric motors, which are powered by electricity. In a hydrogen-electric vehicle, that electricity is produced while the car is driving. Hydrogen from a tank is combined with oxygen from the outside air, a process that produces only water next to the electricity needed to power the electric motors. The car can be refilled in three minutes.

While the pink race car is not comparable to the petrol-powered competition from a technical point of view, it is in terms of performance. The Forze VIII can accelerate from 0 to a 100 km/h in under 4 seconds and has a top speed of over 210 km/h. The maximum torque the motors can deliver is 780 Nm, this is the same “turning power” as a 10cm long wrench that has a 780kg weight attached to one end. For comparison: the Ferrari 812 Superfast, one of the fastest models the Italian sports car manufacturer produces, taps out at 718 Nm.

Picture by Hexashots

The next-generation hydrogen racer

Student team Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing has existed for over 12 years, in this period they have built 8 cars. The team’s mission is to promote fuel-cell technology. “We build an inspiring example, a race car, and we use it to show the possibilities of hydrogen to the world,” says Cai. “The Forze VIII has been that example for the last two years, we have done everything we can on this platform. Designing, building and testing the next generation hydrogen-racer, the Forze IX, will be the next challenge for our team. Todays podium-finish has only made us more enthusiastic about what we can do with the next car.”

Waterstofracewagen is op dreef

De door Delftse studenten ontwikkelde waterstof racewagen Forze VIII heeft dit weekend twee veelbelovende races gereden waarin coureur Jan Bot in beide races de snelste rondetijd neerzette. In deze wedstrijden nam het Forze team met hun waterstof raceauto op tegen conventionele racewagens.

Vliegende start

Met een uitstekende start begon studententeam Forze zondagavond 14 juli aan een 60 minuten durende race op circuit Zandvoort. Als enige waterstofvoertuig ter wereld dat meedoet aan een officiële autorace was er veel aandacht voor de roze racewagen. Het team zette al snel na de start de beste rondetijd binnen hun klasse neer, na een dag eerder ook al het ronderecord voor elektrische sportwagens op Circuit Zandvoort te hebben aangescherpt.

De Forze VIII maakte een enorme inhaalslag in de eerste helft van de race en voor een aantal rondes reed de wagen op de eerste plek met ruim 10 seconden voorsprong op de nummer twee. Terwijl de voorsprong groter en groter werd viel de wagen uit het niets kort uit door een technisch probleem. De Forze VIII wist de hierdoor opgelopen achterstand niet meer in te halen, maar heeft de rest van de race consistent goede rondetijden neergezet.

Zhi Wei Cai, Team Manager: “Er is afgelopen jaar met het hele team enorm hard gewerkt om deze prestatie mogelijk te maken. Vorig jaar waren we het eerste team ter wereld dat überhaupt een race uitreed op waterstof, al konden we toen nog totaal niet meekomen met de competitie. Om nu, één jaar later, consistent competitieve rondetijden neer te zetten is fantastisch. Als je bedenkt wat ons team bereikt met beperkte middelen, stel je dan eens voor wat er allemaal bereikt kan worden met waterstof als écht grote partijen hier serieus werk van maken. Ons tempo ten opzichte van de benzine aangedreven competitie laat zien dat waterstoftechnologie echt potentie heeft.”

Het team op het podium na de finish.

Racen zonder uitstoot

Een waterstofauto, zoals de Forze VIII, is in feite een elektrische auto. In plaats van elektrische energie op te slaan in batterijen wordt er echter gebruik gemaakt van een zogenaamde brandstofcel. Hierin wordt waterstof uit een tank gecombineerd met zuurstof uit de buitenlucht. Deze reactie heeft twee restproducten: elektriciteit en puur water. De elektriciteit gaat naar de twee elektromotoren die de achterwielen aandrijven en het water wordt verneveld in de buitenlucht. “We kunnen onze waterstoftanks binnen 3 minuten aftanken, dat is een enorm voordeel ten opzichte van batterij-elektrisch voertuigen,” zo vertelt Team Manager Zhi Wei Cai.”

Pitstop tijdens de free practice op vrijdag, foto door Hexashots.

Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing

Studententeam Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing bestaat al sinds 2007. Het team heeft inmiddels acht auto’s gebouwd, allen waterstof aangedreven. Waar de eerste vijf wagens nog kleine karts waren waarmee het team meedeed aan een studentencompetitie, is de Forze VIII een volwaardige racewagen zoals je ze normaal gesproken op Le Mans verwacht. Ook voor de toekomst heeft het team nog wilde plannen, Cai: “Volgend jaar gaan we aan de slag met de Forze IX, een nóg krachtigere en snellere wagen dan ons huidige model. Of we volgend jaar al klaar zijn om te racen is nog niet duidelijk, voor ons ligt de prioriteit bij de kwaliteit en de prestaties van de wagen.”

De Forze VIII tijdens de race op zaterdag, foto door Hexashots.

Puntjes op de i

Voordat het zo ver is staat er eerst nog een tweede raceweekend op de planning. Halverwege augustus zal het team deelnemen aan de Gamma Racing Days op het TT circuit van Assen. “We hebben nog een maand de tijd om de Forze VIII te verbeteren, zodat we in onze volgende race het tempo dat we hebben laten zien de hele race vast kunnen houden.” aldus Cai. In het weekend van 17 en 18 augustus wordt het duidelijk in hoeverre de Delftse studenten daarin geslaagd zijn.

Defensie helpt studenten uit de brand

Een raceauto op waterstof die met 200 km/h over een asfaltbaan op een hermetisch afgesloten legerplaats zoeft, omgeven met luchtverdedigingssystemen van Defensie. Het klinkt als een scene uit een actiefilm, maar vond vanmiddag daadwerkelijk plaats op Luitenant-generaal Bestkazerne te Vredepeel.

Forze VIII naast een Patriot-Launcher en Fennek ‘Stinger Waepon Platform’

“Een gekke vraag, hebben jullie misschien ergens een afgesloten asfaltbaan van 700 meter die we in de komende week een paar uur kunnen gebruiken?” Met die zin begon het contact tussen Defensie en het studententeam Forze van de TU Delft. De studenten hebben het afgelopen jaar hard gewerkt om hun racewagen op waterstof klaar te stomen voor een race in Zandvoort op 13 en 14 juli, maar door technische problemen moest test na test worden uitgesteld. “De circuits zaten vol en daarbuiten is het lastig om een plek te vinden waar we onze tests kunnen uitvoeren,” zo zegt Zhi Wei Cai, Team Manager van de groep. “Uit pure noodzaak hebben we toen maar de stoute schoenen aangetrokken en Defensie opgebeld.” En dat dat een juiste zet was bleek wel toen er direct enthousiast op het voorstel werd ingegaan. Binnen een paar uur werden persoonsgegevens doorgegeven, vrijwaringen getekend en voertuigen geregistreerd.

Brigadegeneraal Gerhard Schonewille, directeur Materieel en Diensten van de Koninklijke Landmacht licht graag toe waarom Defensie snel medewerking toezegde: “Als Landmacht volgen we technologische ontwikkelingen op de voet en dragen we daar ook graag aan bij. Met energiebesparing en -transitie kun je in een operatie bijvoorbeeld het aantal logistieke transporten beperken, die altijd een risico vormen en beveiligingscapaciteit vergen.” Defensie zelf verwacht volgend jaar de eerste zonne-energie gedreven wagen in het voertuigenpark: de Lightyear one.

Defensie was er dus snel klaar voor, nu de studenten en hun wagen nog. “De afgelopen 2 weken is er 24/7 aan de auto gewerkt. De energiebuffer moest vervangen worden, een enorme klus die ook nog eens met de grootste zorgvuldigheid moet gebeuren,” aldus Cai. Zelfs de nacht voorafgaand aan de door Defensie opgezette test werd er doorgewerkt door de studenten, die het uiteindelijk voor elkaar kregen de auto test klaar te hebben met nog een aantal uur op de klok.

Luchtafweergeschut naast het circuit

De Delftse studenten, die normaal gesproken op het toekomstige Formule 1 Circuit in Zandvoort testen, voerden maandagmiddag misschien wel de best beveiligde autotest ooit uit. Het Defensie Grondgebonden Luchtverdedigingscommando had ter inspiratie zelf enkele van hun raketsystemen langs de baan gezet.

Forze VIII in actie op de Luitenant-generaal Bestkazerne

Water uit de uitlaat

De roze racewagen van team Forze is gebouwd om het op te nemen tegen racewagens die “gewoon” op benzine rijden. In de Delftse auto is het echter lang zoeken naar een druppel benzine. In een zogenaamde brandstofcel wordt waterstof uit een tank gecombineerd met zuurstof uit de buitenlucht. Deze reactie heeft twee restproducten: elektriciteit en puur water. De elektriciteit gaat naar twee elektromotoren die de achterwielen aandrijven en het water wordt verneveld in de buitenlucht.

Een succesvolle test

De test van maandag was een groot succes. Cai: “Door de lange rechte baan konden we tot onze topsnelheid accelereren en de energiebuffer volledig volladen door regeneratief te remmen tot stilstand. Alles werkte naar behoren, een groot succes dus! Nog een paar dagen sleutelen en dan zijn we klaar voor Zandvoort”

De roze racewagen zal dit jaar viermaal in actie komen. Tweemaal tijdens de Dutch Supercar Challenge in Zandvoort op 13 en 14 juli en tweemaal tijdens de “Gamma Racing Days” op het TT Assen Circuit, op 17 en 18 augustus.

Partnership Event at the Circuit of Zandvoort

On the 16th of April Forze organized a Partnership event. An afternoon filled with informative, fun and even exciting activities for all of our sponsors and partners. A day like this serves as a way for us to thank all of our sponsors and partners for the great collaboration we have. We had a wonderful day and want to thank everybody that was there for making a great day an even greater day!

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Forze VIII proves: Hydrogen is ready for the Challenge!

Assen, Sunday 19 August – TU Delft Student Team Forze has completed a world’s first full race with their newest generation hydrogen powered race car. The team came in 6th after a grueling 60 minute race during the Supercar Challenge on Saturday 18 August. During the race, the Forze Team set their fuel cell powered vehicle against a field of conventionally powered gasoline cars.

 

Competitive Spirit

The sustainable Forze vehicle had to prove itself amongst gasoline powered cars. At the beginning of the year, this seemed a daunting task, but in part due to a completely new bodywork, as well as improved hydrogen storage capacity, racing on Saturday went better than the student team could have hoped. The original goal was only to complete the 45 minute race on Sunday, so to finish the longer 60 minute Saturday race was an unexpected achievement.

 

Aiming for More

The team was unbelievably happy with the 60 minute performance on Saturday, but wanted more from their machine. Sunday was set to be the final battle for a win. Unfortunately, this did not go as planned. Just before start, the team experienced an unexpected problem which prevented the vehicle from starting the race.

Despite Sunday’s misfortune, the team is very proud of Saturday’s performance. The 18 member full-time team labored the entire year to make this race weekend a reality. Team Manager Gijs Vermeij on this weekend’s events: “The real achievement of this weekend is that for the first time in automotive history, a hydrogen powered car completed a full 60 minute official race against conventionally fuelled cars. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t also work on Sunday, as our hydrogen technology was ready for the challenge. The part that failed was a component of the front suspension that was outsourced and was made externally. The part was no longer within our strict safety parameters, so we had to make the difficult but necessary decision to not participate in the race on Sunday. It’s really unfortunate, but that’s just part of the sport of racing!”

The goal for this year was to prove that racing a full race on hydrogen power was possible, and that goal was achieved. A result like this gives the team confidence, and the coming year will see even more work put into the car. “Advancements in hydrogen fuel cell technology occur at such a rapid pace that it can’t be long until we are standing on the podium. We have shown this Saturday that we have taken big steps in terms of longevity and range, which gives hope for the future” says Vermeij.

 

Hydrogen

A hydrogen powered vehicle generates electricity in its fuel cell using hydrogen from the tanks and oxygen taken from the surrounding air. This electricity is then used to power electric motors. The only exhaust from the vehicle is pure water. Hydrogen can be produced using electrolysis, which requires energy. It is therefore important for said electricity to be sourced sustainably in order for hydrogen fuel cells to truly be considered a renewable fuel source.

 

Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing

The Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing Team was founded in 2007, and since then has produced eight hydrogen powered race vehicles. The first five vehicles were smaller scale, compact go-karts that participated in student competitions throughout Europe. From their humble beginnings, the Forze VIII has grown to a full-size, full capability race car. Other than the historic race of Saturday, Forze’s most current flagship vehicle also broke the lap time record for vehicles in its class on the Circuit of Zandvoort by setting a time of 1:56.968.

 

Header image by Worcflow

Recordpoging circuit Zandvoort maandag 13 augustus

Op maandag 13 Augustus om 18:00 zal de nieuwste generatie waterstof raceauto van Forze, de Forze VIII een poging doen om een nieuw ronde record op het circuit Zandvoort te rijden. De klasse waarin dit record wordt gereden is de Electric Sportscar klasse. Het wordt de laatste ultieme test voordat er wordt afgereisd naar het TT circuit op Assen voor de Gamma Racing Day op 18 en 19 augustus.

Het oude record staat ook op naam van Forze, gereden nog met de Forze VI in een tijd van 2:04,519  in 2015. Met de ontwikkelingen van de afgelopen jaren en op basis van de laatste tests zijn wij er zeer zeker van dat we deze rondetijd gaan verbeteren.

Op 18 en 19 augustus zal Forze mee racen in de Supercar Challenge tijdens de Gamma Racing Day. Op zaterdag 18 augustus wordt om 17:07 een race van 60 minuten gereden, op zondag 19 augustus zullen wij om 14:34 onze 45 minuten race rijden die zeer spannend gaat worden. Als wij de race uitrijden is Forze de eerste waterstof auto ter wereld ooit die een race tegen benzine auto’s heeft uitgereden.

Blijf op de hoogte van het laatste nieuws hoe onze record poging verloopt op alle social media.

 

First test on circuit Zandvoort with the newest generation hydrogen race car!

Monday 30th of July

With our big race ahead we are already some weeks in the testing period. There have already been a lot of different test with the car on the dyno, at RWC ahoy (a small cycling test path) and at the RDW test facility. But the big test had yet to come, driving laps on a real circuit.

Last Monday (30th of July) it was finally time to test on the circuit. With enough confidence in the Forze VIII after all the last tests, we gathered the whole team to come to circuit Zandvoort. Which is unusual, normally only the test crew tests the car. Instead of a small group of 6 to 8 people we were with a group of over 30, because everybody should see this special moment.

From 17:00 we had the track completely for ourselves and with a small start up delay the fun could finally begin. You could hear the zooming sound of all the different pumps in the car and then quietly it drives away. You could immediately feel the tension in the team the moment the car was out of sight. After a little over two minutes we saw it steering trough the last corner and with a setting sun in the back it flew over the finish!

 

In the beginning we could drive several rounds in sequence, and I could tell you it was a special sight. Seeing the future of racing built by students from the TU Delft driving lap after lap at the circuit of Zandvoort was special. During this session the car reached top speeds well over 180 km/h and we drove a best lap time of 2 minutes flat. However, we expect way faster lap times with other tests to come. With for example an anti-roll bar which was not yet fitted to the car this track test.  

Unfortunately, after an hour of testing we heard some bad sound in the left rear, we stopped the car and concluded that we couldn’t continue the test. The part that broke had to be repaired in our workshop in Delft. However, the spirit is high for the Gamma Racing days on 18th and 19th of August. It is not unusual that something breaks during a track test, preferably if something breaks down you want it to break down during a track test. Then you can optimize the part and make sure it won’t happen again during the Supercar Challenge.

With 2 weeks to go the spirit is high and a lot more tests on track are planned. Besides Zandvoort we are also going to test in Assen because in the end that is the circuit we will race on!  

 

First Track Test of the Forze VIII

Yes, finally the day was there. The Forze VIII would drive its first meters outside on the track. It promised to be a sweat dropping hot day, so perfect to test the new cooling in the car to its limit.

The goal of the day was to test the car on low speed. For a racecar driving on low speeds is very difficult since there is not a lot of air going to the radiators to cool the car. Fortunately, the cooling performed well today.

However, the biggest challenge of the test was reliability. On a first track test you always expect a lot of errors in the system. Many of the bugs have already been found and fixed with the dyno tests, but on a track circumstances are always different. Every tracktest, we bring many different tools and create a mini workshop by the track. Because of this we can often fix small problems on track and then continue driving.

After driving for 2 hours straight (with some small repairs) with a speed of 20 km/h we gathered a lot of data from the many sensors in our car. We will now analyse the data so we can make adjustments and optimize our car even further. This is only our first test. From now on we will have a lot more tests on which we will drive at all different kind of speeds and settings. In our car we can adjust many different drive characteristics such as the torque and the suspension settings.

Stay tuned to see our car performing on higher speeds in the coming weeks!

Hydrogen racing pioneers Forze praise the decision of FIA and ACO for separate hydrogen racing division in 2024

Reaction to the news that FIA and ACO announce plans for a zero-emission hydrogen division for the 24 hours of Le Mans in 2024:

TU Delft Dreamteam Forze delighted with announced hydrogen race class for 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2024.
“At Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing we are thrilled to hear the news that the FIA and the ACO have announced their plans to introduce a hydrogen division for the 24 hours of Le Mans in 2024. The team has been working on the development of their hydrogen racer for over a decade, with the mission to promote the sustainable technology. To hear that there will be a separate class for hydrogen powered cars in one of the most important and prestigious racing events in the world is amazing for us. For Forze, participation in the 24 hour race of Le Mans has always been a dream, although unspoken. With the new regulations in sight, this suddenly becomes far more realistic. Which technical specifications are required by that time are of course not known yet and we’ll have to see what changes we would have to make for our car to fit them. Forze will continue working hard on the development of the car and closely follow the regulations, so that hopefully we will be at the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2024.”
Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing is a student team of the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. They develop, build and race a hydrogen powered racer, as part of their mission to promote hydrogen as a sustainable energy carrier. The team has been around for more than a decade now and has developed their vehicle from a small go-kart to a racetrack-worthy LMP3-based racer. In August 2017, the team wrote world history, being the first team to compete with a hydrogen powered car against conventional ICE cars in an official race.
During the 24 Hour race event at the Nürburgring this year, the team revealed their latest car, the Forze VIII, together with their new main sponsor BWT. With this improved car they will participate in the Supercar Challenge on 17-19 August this year to show what hydrogen can already do.

The big release of The Forze VIII

I am convinced that we can say that these last months have been the craziest months of our year thus far. Each and every member of the team has given their all, and we have seen what an incredible result we could deliver as a team. It was hard work but in the end it was all worth it, especially with the release of our new car: The Forze VIII at the Nürburgring!

The event was covered by several major media outlets and was attended by the enthusiastic Nürburgring crowd. Camera crews, fans, and the team surrounded the car during the reveal ceremony. Here is some insight into the work that went into this landmark day!

The production

Not everything was pomp and circumstance when it came to preparations for the the release day… To have the car ready by the 12th of May would already put us far ahead of our productions schedule, but the potential exposure we would gain from having the car ready for the Nürburgring display would be worth the extra effort. The main obstacle was the bodywork, as each panel required many man hours of sanding, smoothing, filling and re sanding, with members from every division of the team pitching in to help out. There was no shortcut, the work needed to be done. In true team spirit, even the acquisition manager and team manager got their hands dirty laminating and sanding the body panels!

As the saying goes “too many cooks spoil the soup” and having more than 20 people working on the car simultaneously was not very efficient. There simply was not enough space on the vehicle to give everyone their own room to operate and get their task done. Because of this, a week before the reveal, we decided to do night shifts to make the deadline. The manpower was distributed and our work output was improved. Although this was a drastic measure, it paid off thanks to the effort of the team, and we made the deadline. On Wednesday we worked for 24 hours straight finalizing the car and wrapping it in its new livery. The moment the car was wrapped, it was loaded into its trailer and sent to Germany.

The Reveal  

The team could not have hoped for a better reveal. To have Forze’s flagship car displayed at a track with such a prominent racing history, as the Nürburgring, was an honor. Also, to have the Forze VIII, a car whose chassis has roots in LMP-class racing present at a major 24 Hr race was a pleasant coincidence. The car received a of attention, from the press but also from the public.  Our hydrogen racer now looks fast in its new body work and bright pink wrap. To get a view of the car at the Nürburgring, see our time-lapse of the display below!

 

New main sponsor

But why the colour pink? Pink is not exactly the most obvious choice for a race car… Considering our new main sponsor, however, the choice becomes more clear. BWT (Best Water Technology) will be joining us this year as head sponsor, and we are excited for the new opportunities this opens for us!

24h Nürburgring 2018 – Foto: Gruppe C Photography

After more than two years of successful collaboration with PitPoint clean fuels as main sponsor, it is time for the team to grow further, which will be enabled by partnering with BWT. PitPoint will remain closely involved with the team as sponsor to support this growth further. We would like to extend our thanks to the Pitpoint team which has helped us immensely to get this far. Without them this technological adventure would not be possible.

Coming Months

Now that the bodywork is done we can almost begin testing. Next week we are doing the first dyno tests, which means that track testing is just around the corner! The first track day is scheduled for June 11th, so stay tuned to our social media channels for updates and more information. Seeing the FORZE VIII set down its first laps will be an emotional moment for all, the confirmation that countless days and nights have begun to pay off!