The world of high-performance hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles has been fairly quiet since the GreenGT H2 quietly missed its Le Mans debut in 2013. The electric-performance innovators have still been at work behind the scenes though, and students at the Delft University of Technology have just set a new track record for fuel-cell-powered vehicles at Germany’s famed Nürburgring. Dubbed the Forze IV, Delft’s fuel-cell EV racer has been evolving since 2007.

Like the GreenGT H2, the Forze project is underway with the intent of eventually competing with conventionally powered vehicles at Le Mans. The current iteration, Forze IV, is the sixth generation. Forze has been developing the car for two and a half years, and all of that work paid off on May 7 when the car lapped the Nürburgring in under 11 minutes, with ex-Formula One driver Jan Lammers at the wheel. The time was not officially recorded, as the run was made on a public day with other vehicles on the course. However, dash-camera timing showing a sub-11-minute run, plus team leader Menno Dalmijn’s assertion that the Forze IV was only running at half-power suggest that a serious record run around the 21-kilometer (13-mile) track will be forthcoming. Check out the video of the Forze IV’s Nürburgring run.

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Why it matters

In the march toward mainstream acceptability, alternative-fuel vehicles have taken to showcasing performance. After all, the few production hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles are exciting from a technological standpoint, but not particularly showy. The Delft University of Technology team hopes to use the Forze VI to help show off the potential of hydrogen-fuel-cell cars in racing as well as in the real world.

During the Nürburgring run, the car hit speeds of 170 km/h.

According to the Forze team, the Forze VI has six times the power of the Forze V. The car is powered by a Ballard FC Velocity MK1100 stack fuel-cell system, and output from the two electric motors totals 190kW (258 horsepower).

The Forze VI’s lightweight body means that it boasts a 0-60 time of less than four seconds and tops out at 210 km/h (130 mph). During the Nürburgring run, the car hit speeds of 170 km/h. The twin tanks hold 3 kg of hydrogen, enabling 30 minutes of full-power driving. Refuelling takes three minutes.

The last high-profile attempt at a hydrogen-fuel-cell racer was the GreenGT H2, which was scheduled to run in the "Garage 56" class for innovative prototypes at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans. GreenGT cited a need for more time to get the car ready. The twin-motor GreenGT H2 produced over 500 horsepower.

Forze VI Breaks Nurburgring Lap Record For Fuel-Cell Powered Cars: Video High Resolution Exterior
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Press Release

It was the ultimate test for the student built hydrogen powered racing car from TU Delft: a lap on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. With no one less than former Formula 1 racer Jan Lammers at the wheel, the Forze VI raced through 73 challenging corners, and completed the 21 kilometres of world class racing track in under 11 minutes. Never before has any other racing car with a hydrogen fuel cell completed the track so fast, making a clear statement about the potential of this technology and it’s place in the automotive industry.

Optimizations
Jan Lammers had some resounding words for the racing team: “It is truly awe inspiring how the students have designed and built a race car that also handles so well, even more so considering the highly advanced technology it contains. I tip my hat to them.”

The Forze VI was designed by a group of over 50 students from Delft University of Technology. Together they have dedicated two and a half years in making a hydrogen electric racing car, the first of its kind. “The successful lap is an enormous motivator for the team”, said team leader Menno Dalmijn. “The circuit is not dubbed ‘The green hell’ for nothing, as it pushes all race cars to their absolute limits. With the lap data gathered, the analysis will aid the team in reaching the higher power limits of their racer, which so far has only driven on half power”. The Forze VI reached top speeds of 170km/h on the track, but the students believe that it can do much more. With some optimizations and tweaks, the car will theoretically reach a top speed of 220km/h, along with 0 to 100km/h acceleration within a mere 4 seconds. “And the best part is that the only by-product we produced was pure water, meaning a carbon footprint of zero”, added Menno Dalmijn.

Fuel Cell
In the race car’s fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are allowed to react with each other under controlled circumstances. The cell uses the gasses to produce electricity directly with an efficiency of 60%. Without any other conversions, the produced electricity directly powers the electric motors. For this reasons, this technology has one huge advantage above electric cars with batteries: operational range. Similar to gasoline, the hydrogen tanks can be refuelled within minutes, allows long distance travel for electric cars to be highly practical.

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