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Alpine investigating hydrogen power as F1's future

Alpine has launched an evaluation study to determine whether or not hydrogen power could be the best direction for Formula 1’s long-term future.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A522

While the FIA recently signed off on plans for the next generation of F1 engines from 2026-2030 to be turbo hybrids run on fully sustainable fuels, there remains debate about where grand prix racing should position itself longer term as road cars transition to electric.

It is unlikely that electric motors and batteries will be strong enough by 2031 to power F1 cars at their current performance levels, which means the championship will have to make a call about where it heads after.

But one option Alpine believes could be viable is a switch to hydrogen power, which is why the French manufacturer has begun a detailed look into the pros and cons of using such a power unit in F1.

Speaking exclusively to Autosport, Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said that, with fully electric engines not an option for F1 for a while, that evaluating hydrogen as a long-term solution had its merits.

“I don't think the full electric [engine] is ready,” he said. “It might be perhaps in 15 years from now, but I don't see that happening in the next one or two iterations of the regulations.

“That's why we are investigating, because I believe manufacturers and especially PU manufacturers have the duty to shape regulations and to bring solutions to the table, hydrogen as a fuel.

“To me, and to us, it's kind of like a good way to kill a lot of birds with one stone. It's cleaner, for sure. It's not fully clean, granted, but it's much more improved compared to traditional fuel.

“It's abundant, that's for sure, whereas organic or synthetic fuel can be limited in terms of supply and or cost of producing.

“Plus it preserves one thing, which is the noise. Okay perhaps in like 20 years people will forget about that, because the new generations couldn't care less and they'll be used to cars being silent in the street, but at the moment, this is what makes that show as well.

“We must not forget that F1 is a sport i.e. entertainment. It's a business for sure. But that business is built on people loving it and watching it and enjoying it. I can't not think about that. So we are pursuing that path.”

Laurent Rossi, CEO, Alpine F1 talks to press

Laurent Rossi, CEO, Alpine F1 talks to press

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Rossi said the aim of Alpine’s study was to properly understand if hydrogen power could deliver the necessary performance levels F1 requires.

And, if its work did reach that conclusion, he hoped it could then showcase the technology – potentially by using the new-technology Garage 56 option at Le Mans – to prove it as a good option for racing.

“We are going to play our role to inspire others, governing bodies for sure,” he said. “We would love to be able to showcase, but first prove to ourselves, that it works, because we still need to investigate that it's more than a belief or a prophecy.

“If it does [work], then we want to possibly demonstrate that either, say at Garage 56 in Le Mans or around the Nurburgring with one of our road cars that will be fitted with a hydrogen fuelled internal combustion engine.

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“This will then perhaps inspire the governing bodies that there is a path there.

“If Porsche, Ferrari and others are following other leads, so be it. But it's even better because we will bring to the table more options than just one.”

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