• Hydrogen-fueled race cars might race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as early as 2026
  • Hydrogen Village at the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans features potential future competitors powered by hydrogen
  • MissionH24 will display its Evo hydrogen-powered race car concept in Hydrogen Village

The organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will use the backdrop of this weekend's race to preview a potential future for carbon-free racing.

The ACO has set up what it calls the Hydrogen Village at Le Mans' Circuit de la Sarthe, where a number of organizations plan to showcase concepts of hydrogen-fueled race cars that could hit the track as early as 2026. The date is when the ACO aims to have a Le Mans class for cars that run on hydrogen.

One of the concepts is the Evo hydrogen-electric race car from MissionH24, an organization promoting the use of hydrogen in motorsports and backed by several partners, including French fuel giant TotalEnergies.

A hydrogen-electric vehicle is essentially an EV that uses a hydrogen fuel cell instead of a battery to power an electric drive system. The fuel cell combines hydrogen with oxygen from the air in a nearly emission-free process that creates electricity. While this technology is found in cars such as the Toyota Mirai, the ACO is out to show that it can also be used for racing.

MissionH24 Evo hydrogen-electric race car concept

MissionH24 Evo hydrogen-electric race car concept

For its Evo concept, MissionH24 installed a single electric motor rated at 872 hp. It powers the rear wheels. A pair of hydrogen tanks at the rear of the car feed a mid-mounted fuel cell. The generated electricity charges a lithium-ion battery that delivers extra electricity to the motor during high-load situations.

It's still the early days as assembly and track testing of the Evo's powertrain are only scheduled to start in October. The first track test is due to follow in early 2025. The concept is being developed with a target weight of 1,300 kg (approximately 2,866 pounds) and a top speed of 199 mph.

The ACO is also investigating the use of internal-combustion engines that run on hydrogen. When burning hydrogen, engines emit zero carbon emissions. However, they do emit harmful nitrogen oxides that need to be treated using urea-based selective catalytic reduction like in modern diesel engines. Current Le Mans contenders Alpine and Toyota will show their respective Alpenglow Hy4 and GR H2 Racing concepts with hydrogen engines at the Hydrogen Village, and Bosch will present a Ligier race car fitted with a hydrogen engine as well.