DTM unveils hydrogen-fuelled electric racing concept

Image: ITR

DTM has become the latest motor-racing series to embrace the concept of electric racing by spelling out a vision for a new championship that could see touring cars race at Formula One speeds.

The German series, and its umbrella organisation ITR, has unveiled its plans under the ‘Revolutionstheorie’ banner, stating that while Formula E has enjoyed strong year-on-year growth and Formula One has embraced hybrid and regenerative technology, there is yet to be a mainstream all-electric series that incorporates road-going cars.

ITR and DTM’s vision aims to expanded beyond the current perception of electric racing, with the blueprint for a potential new series involving harnessing energy from two separate sources – batteries and fuel cells, which transform hydrogen into electrical energy.

A DTM-like race car using hydrogen fuel cells would house hydrogen tanks within its carbon-fibre monocoque. This would provide for the introduction of innovative mid-race pit-stops that would see cars switching fuel cells via an automated robotic process. An industrial robot rig would surround the car, replacing all four wheels and safely swapping over the battery pack or hydrogen tank located in the car’s underbody.

With these technologies, ITR said a racing car would be able to achieve peak power of more than 1000bhp and exceed speeds 185mph. By comparison, 2019 DTM machines are currently powered by four-cylinder engines capable of more than 600bhp. ITR said DTM has also begun trialling a more environmentally friendly synthetic fuel, and has plans to introduce a hybrid powertrain element in 2022.

ITR chairman, former F1 star Gerhard Berger, said: “What’s important about this proposal is that, even though it would use standardised powertrain components, it would allow manufacturers to race with their own models – something yet to be embraced by an electric series. That’s obviously critical for manufacturer involvement, and allows them to maximise their marketing around it.”

Read this: How oil giant Shell is using Nissan’s Formula E team to reposition itself for the energy future

A timeline has yet to be established for a potential new series. Berger said in an interview with DTM’s official website: We’re working on a variety of different projects that incorporate more sustainable technologies. They say, in motorsport, if you stand still you go backwards – so we’re thinking several steps ahead. That’s what you have to do if you want to shape the future of motorsport.

“At the same time, we need to be open-minded about what’s happening in the automotive world. And although hybrid and electric vehicles have established something of a foothold, I think motorsport has been lacking a truly new and inspiring concept up until now. We’re now talking with a significant number of automotive manufacturers and suppliers who would like to become more involved in motorsport. This proposal offers them a first look at something tangible – and exciting.”

Berger has been a noted critic of electric mobility, in particular recently making critical comments about Formula E. Responding as to how ITR’s concept is different, he said: “I’ve always said that Formula E is justified as a marketing platform, and that I can understand why many companies are getting involved. My criticism was directed at the sport itself, because I think the cars are too slow and the driving style too strongly characterised by strategy and energy management.

“The cars showcased in our conceptual study offer something completely different. Here, we’re talking about high-performance racing cars which – just as in DTM – are fast, spectacular, and able to race wheel to wheel. Another benefit is the fact that these cars will look like the cars you can buy at a dealership – they’ll be recognisable and distinct to each brand manufacturer. So, fans will be able to identify with these machines.”

DTM in September revealed a revamped calendar for 2020 with two new races in Italy and Sweden.

Read this: Agag’s political skills make way for Reigle’s audience acumen as Formula E tries to build on first ever profit