KH-7 Epsilon truck to use hydrogen power for 2023 Dakar Rally

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Credit: KH-7 Epsilon Team

As the Dakar Rally continues to shift towards alternative fuel sources, KH-7 Epsilon Team is doing the same for 2023 as their MAN TGA 26.480 truck will partially use hydrogen. Jordi Juvanteny will drive the truck, numbered #522, with Jordi Ballbé and José Luís Criado as co-pilot and technician, respectively.

Hydrogen had already been employed by GAUSSIN with their H2 Racing Truck at the 2022 Rally, which did not compete for classification and was primarily intended for experimenting.

“The planet asks us for changes and we should not wait for an institutional reaction,” said Juvanteny at a media event on Wednesday. “We have to do it together and start now. We are an amateur team with the desire to do different, innovative things and thus contribute a small grain of sand on the planet which asks us to.”

For 2022, the team’s truck was a zero-emission vehicle that relied on a blend of Repsol’s hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and finished twenty-first in class. They have won the 6×6 subcategory every year since 2019 with sixteen total victories, while also being the best finishing Production truck in 2021.

Weighing 11,500 kilograms, the 2023 MAN’s hydrogen power comes from Spanish energy company EVARM, who specialises in converting vehicles for other fuel supplies. The fuel mixes hydrogen and diesel, the former of which is injected from a pair of 420-litre tanks that will be refilled via generator between stages. While the diesel/hydrogen blend is balanced at 50/50, the team hopes to increase to 90% hydrogen for the 2024 race. This would coincide with the Rally introducing a separate category for alternative fuel vehicles that year.

Hydrogen has no environmental footprint and can be created simply from water and solar energy, making it an appealing choice for race teams experimenting with other forms of fuel. In the off-road realm, Extreme E’s Spark ODYSSEY 21 cars have a hydrogen fuel cell generator while a hydrogen-exclusive counterpart Extreme H will conduct its inaugural season in 2024, while GCK Motorsport hopes to race the e-Blast H2 in the 2024 Dakar Rally.

The race had already débuted the T1 Ultimate class for renewable-energy cars in 2021, and intends to require cars and trucks to be ultra-low emission by 2026 before mandating zero emissions by 2030.

“We believe that our experience can contribute to innovation in a sector such as highly sensitive freight transport for sustainability and that it cannot benefit from other energies such as electricity,” Criado commented. “After so many Dakars there are still challenges. Every year is a new motivation, every year the race is different, the route is always secret and you do not know until the day fifteen minutes before the start so that nobody can cheat. Therefore the challenge is to finish the race, which not everyone does, and obviously also try to reach the best possible classification. This race is our life.”

The 2023 Dakar Rally begins on 31 December 2022.

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