Hydrogen and electricity dominate the discourse of zero-emission vehicles, and Aston Martin set out to prove the worth of the former on Germany's famed Nurburgring race course. The British automaker completed a lap of the 15-mile Nordschleife circuit last weekend in a race-modified Rapide S model fueled by hydrogen.
The lap was in preparation for next month's 24 Hours of Nurburgring, in which Aston Martin will enter its car in the E1-XP experimental class of the endurance race.
Aston Martin's Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S uses an idea already extensively explored by BMW: burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine. The idea has merit in that hydrogen is an abundant and renewable fuel source and that it burns with zero carbon dioxide emissions. However, as a source of fuel for passenger cars, it has drawbacks, such as the fact that hydrogen is expensive to produce and there is no infrastructure to deliver it widely.
For the Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S, Aston Martin modified the fuel system of the car's 6-liter V-12 engine and added four 5,000 PSI carbon fiber tanks. The tanks hold 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds) of hydrogen.
Aston Martin expects the car to run the course at racing speeds, with stops at each lap to refill the hydrogen tank. The car includes a gasoline tank, which also can be used to fuel the engine.
The Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S' performance numbers sound impressive, hitting 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and attaining a top speed of 190 mph, according to Aston Martin.
Aston Martin's foray into hydrogen combustion for this race seems more like publicity stunt than serious zero-emission development, although the company may be looking for a means of complying with strict new European carbon dioxide emission rules.