Monday, March 4, 2024

Japanese auto giants to jointly field hydrogen car at 2024 Dakar Rally

HySE, a research consortium of Japan’s automobile giants, will enter the 2024 Dakar Rally‘s Mission 1000 with a hydrogen-powered car dubbed the HySE-X1.

Short for Hydrogen Small mobility & Engine, HeSE is a research asssociation consisting of Honda, Kawasaki Motors, Suzuki, and Yamaha with Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Toyota as supporting members, with the goal of developing hydrogen engines for “small mobility” such as motorcycles, drones, construction equipment, and Japanese mini-vehicles. The project was founded in May by the four lead manufacturers with approval from the Japanese government’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The HySE-X1 will by roughly 3.53 meters long, 2.07 m wide, and 1.7 m high while weighing in at 1,500 kilograms. The engine is a liquid-cooled, four-stroke straight-four turbocharged motor in dual overhead camshaft layout with sixteen valves. Said engine is currently used by HySE for its motorcycle projects.

Overdrive Racing will build the car’s chassis. The Belgian team currently fields Toyota Hiluxes in the top-level T1 category of the World Rally-Raid Championship, winning twice in 2023 at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Rallye du Maroc, as well as the OT3 Light Prototype in T3, which has enjoyed success in the European and World Bajas Cups.

“We have decided to participate in the Dakar Rally, which we know has a rich history and tradition,” stated HySE chairman and Yamaha R&D executive officer Kenji Komatsu. “Our main reason for participating is to give us the chance to communicate the results of our research in a way that’s easy to understand. Also, by participating in the event, we can identify potential issues and refine our technology to solve the technical themes required for the establishment of hydrogen small mobilities as soon as possible.”

Hydrogen has seen an upwards trend due to its efficient storage nature. While not a fuel source, hydrogen fuel cells are used in relevant vehicles by combining with oxygen to produce electricity and water vapour to power the car. Toyota’s Mirai is one of the first mass-produced hydrogen cars publicly available in the market, and the manufacturer has also experimented with it in motorsport; at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Toyota revealed a hydrogen-based prototype car as the ACO envisions a hydrogen-only class by 2030.

In January, KH-7 Epsilon Team fielded a MAN TGA truck that ran on both hydrogen and diesel fuel at the Dakar Rally. The truck was forbidden from racing in the traditional T5 class and was instead grouped into the “Challenge New Energy” category. KH-7 expressed plans of increasing the hydrogen-to-diesel ratio to nine-to-one for the 2024 Rally.

Mission 1000 is a new non-competition “category” for 2024, featuring a dozen vehicles on different power sources like hydrogen, electric, and hybrid. The class will follow the main Dakar Rally to each location but tackles a separate 100-kilometre route. Rainbow Truck Team also confirmed their Mission 1000 entry in early October, fielding a hydrogen-based Volkswagon Amarok built by E•Lions.

The 2024 Dakar Rally commences on 5 January.

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