AVL RACETECH hydrogen combustion engine to be on track “earlier than you may think”
By Sourced Externally
January 18, 2024
AVL RACETECH’s first race-specific hydrogen combustion engine will be on track “earlier than you may think” with Le Mans 2027 hinted at.
AVL RACETECH is one of the companies leading the way with hydrogen combustion technology as motorsport looks to evolve away from fossil fuels and into a more sustainable era.
“The overall strategy for AVL RACETECH is paving the way for sustainable motorsport because this is where everybody has to go,” said director of motorsport, Ellen Lohr.
“Our goal is, being in the front row of development with our H2 ICE engine, and making sustainable motorsport affordable for smaller race classes, which are the fundament of our sport.
“We all know in 2027, Le Mans is open for hydrogen topics, which fits very well in our plans as well.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t do electrification and have knowledge in fuel cells, we have all that but we love motorsport and that means excitement and sound. But H2 ICE is only one of the things that we do to go in a green direction.”
Organisers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans recently pushed back its 2026 plans to introduce a hydrogen class by a year, with this said to be a more “realistic” timeframe.
When asked when AVL RACETECH’s H2 engine would be seen on the track, Lohr said: “Earlier than you may think!”
In designing its H2 engine, AVL Racetech has been faced with a number of challenges that are specific to hydrogen fuel.
Paul Kapus, manager of Spark Ignited Engines & Concept Vehicles and dubbed the father of the engine, explained: “Hydrogen is a very reactive molecule, so it likes to ignite basically on everything you can imagine – hot surfaces, hot oil droplets, too hot spark plugs, hot valves, whatever. So there is a big risk of preignition. This means you start combustion before the spark. This results in a high cylinder pressure that can lead to engine damage. This is one of the critical points.
“We have to find something to avoid preignition as much as possible. We use water injection as a combustion moderator in this engine. This avoids preignition safely. For sure water injection also causes some challenges….but also they can be solved.
“Another point is hydrogen is gaseous, it’s not a liquid fuel, so we need something to bring a gaseous fuel in reasonable amounts into the cylinder. For this, we need very specific injectors with extremely high flow if we want to run high power and it’s very difficult to get them. These are basically the main points.”
On the power output expected, he added: “Up until now, everything has worked as planned. We were just running the engine for two weeks on power and we have already reached the max torque and the max power that we targeted. We achieved 500Nm and 300kW for a two-litre engine, which I think is a good number.”