Racing and competitive motorsports have long been some of the primary avenues of automotive research and advancement, and that tradition is set to continue with the Formula Zero kart racing league. The series' first race took place in the Netherlands this past weekend, featuring the first international fuel-cell-powered kart race in the world.

The Formula Zero series, named for its zero-emissions racing, features karts powered by hydrogen fuel cells that story their energy in lightweight, compact super-capacitors. This supplants the need for a bulky and heavy battery - an essential design consideration for the lightweight kart platform - while simultaneously discharging more quickly than batteries, allowing for more vigorous performance.

The race itself had two feature events, an endurance competition and a short sprint race. The endurance race, though very short by traditional standards, was a test of the fuel cell technology, requiring six laps of a 533m (1,750ft) track in the shortest time possible. The sprint event, on the other hand, consisted of a single flying lap, qualifying style, ran solely against the clock.

Average speeds for the karts are still low by karting standards, with the winner of the sprint race, a Spanish team called EuplatecH2, taking the fastest lap with a time of just over 36 seconds. That works out to an average speed of about 53k/h (32.8mph). The endurance rate proved even harder on the karts and their technology, with every team that took to the track forced to make unscheduled stops, reports The New Scientist. Precisely what was malfunctioning on the cars is not clear, but overheating is the most likely culprit, since the karts' control systems are packaged into such a tiny space.

The end goal for the series, however, isn't to demonstrate the superiority of fuel-cell technology, but to show that zero-emissions racing can be exciting and to raise the public's awareness - and the private development - of the technology.