Alpine Looks to Hydrogen-Combustion As a Savior for Sports Cars
Alpine will explore hydrogen as a fuel source to secure the legacy of its future sports carsby Isaac Atienza, on LISTEN 03:43
Almost every automaker has abandoned its efforts when it comes to hydrogen propulsion. Toyota is one of the only few automakers who remain committed to the tech, but it seems another automaker is willing to explore hydrogen powertrains as well. As a way of "safeguarding" the future of the internal combustion engine (ICE), French sportscar manufacturer, Alpine, says that they are "actively" exploring hydrogen power for its future sports cars.
With this in mind, we can already dismiss what’s called the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), which is the type of hydrogen vehicle that’s probably in your mind. With FCEV, this tech uses pure hydrogen as fuel to bond with oxygen, and the reaction that happens when hydrogen combines with oxygen is what produces the electricity to power the vehicle. This is how the Toyota Mirai works.
On the other hand, what Alpine is openly exploring is the hydrogen combustion engine, which means hydrogen is combusted instead of gasoline or diesel. This is what Toyota is also experimenting with their GR Yarishttps://www.topspeed.com/cars/car-n... prototype and a Corolla hatchback racecar that the automaker entered in an endurance race in Japan.
Alpine, like most automakers, is supposed to reinvent itself as an all-electric performance brand by 2024. The GT X-Over electric SUV and an electric successor to the A110 are some of the vehicles to spearhead this change, but Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi’s recent announcements seem to suggest that the internal combustion engine will still play a role to the brand moving forward. Rossi says:
"It’s only normal we look at parallel paths - and I say parallel on purpose; the idea is we want to find alternatives that are not necessarily incompatible with electrification, because electrification is--whether we like it or not--the future of automotive for at least 60-70% of the automotive parc."
Alpine wants to preserve the ICE for its future vehicles and offer it alongside their upcoming electric vehicles (EV). To achieve this, Rossi says that in terms of future-proofing low-volume, high-output sports cars, a sustainable fuel like hydrogen could be a solution.
"In our case, we believe hydrogen as a fuel could be one. Hydrogen has the green merit of being very compatible with electrification because the parallel path to hydrogen as a fuel is hydrogen as a fuel cell, which produces electricity. That’s good because the end-to-end industrial path for hydrogen will be compatible with electrification, so we believe that could be one way forward."
Rossi also said that Alpine aims to use a hydrogen combustion engine in motorsports applications such as Le Mans. In addition, the idea of creating a bespoke prototype whose primary purpose is to beat a Nurburgring lap record also isn’t out of the picture.
“We know that Le Mans is promoting hydrogen fuel cells, which is one step forward, but we want to go another step forward and use hydrogen as a fuel so we could use a V6--a hybridized V6--powered by hydrogen."
This isn’t the first time that Alpine has explored the idea of using hydrogen as a fuel source for its future vehicles. Earlier this year, Alpine partnered with Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) to create the A4810 concept car. Alpine says that it is powered by hydrogen, though they did not disclose whether this car uses an FCEV powertrain or a hydrogen combustion engine.