With the 2024 Dakar Rally set to introduce an alternative fuel category, GCK Motorsport is already prepared with its challenger. During the 2022 race’s rest day on Saturday, GCK unveiled the physical prototype for the e-Blast H2, an SUV powered by an integrated hydrogen fuel cell.
Aligning with the shift in production cars, many motorsport operations have eyed different fuel sources for their vehicles across many disciplines. In the case of hydrogen, FCEVs (fuel cell electric vehicle) powered by the element are especially appealing as hydrogen fuel can be generated using just water and solar power, both plentiful and renewable resources. Extreme E cars use hydrogen generators, while Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus revealed last month its Hydrogen Fuel Cell Boot that intends to compete in November’s SCORE International Baja 1000.
GCK, the racing arm of French company Green Corp Konnection, first dabbled in alternative rally vehicles with the e-Blast 1. The e-Blast 1, which appeared at the 2021 Dakar Rally, is a hybrid powered by electric and hydrogen energy. As the letter and increased number in its name suggests, the e-Blast H2 is intended to take things a step further as a fully hydrogen-based vehicle. For the 2022 race, the team is fielding a biofuel car, the GCK Thunder driven by owner Guerlain Chicherit.
“We are very proud to be presenting the first ever hydrogen cross-country competition car with an integrated fuel cell,” stated GCK CEO Eric Boudot. “GCK Motorsport’s involvement in some of the most gruelling and varied motorsport events globally provides an ideal platform and innovation lab for Green Corp Konnection to further develop and create industry-leading greener technological solutions.”
The H2 was built with the help of German electric powertrain maker FEV. Throughout 2021, FEV focused on developing and installing the fuel cell system while GCK emphasised testing. A render of the H2 was released in September.
700 bars of hydrogen are stored in the H2’s fuel cell, with 30 kg being stored in four R134 tanks that are capable of producing 200 kW of energy; a 50-kW lithium ion battery is attached to the cell. The car’s electric motor, a two-gear setup designed by GCK, can power the vehicle up to 320 kW, equal to 430 hp. Should things go to plan, the H2 is expected to be capable of completing a 250-km special stage.
In addition to a new green category by 2024, the Rally hopes to have a fully autonomous bivouac; such a concept was first tried in 2021 with a series of solar panels. The 2026 race intends to require all car and truck entries to use vehicles with ultra-low emissions, before zero-emissions cars and trucks are to be mandated by 2030. Until then, the 2022 edition is the first with the T1 Ultimate categories for renewable-energy cars, upon which Audi has capitalised with the electric RS Q e-tron piloted by fourteen-time winner Stéphane Peterhansel.