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Alpine: Alpenglow prototype will help determine costs of hydrogen Le Mans project

Alpine's Alpenglow hydrogen prototype will help the French manufacturer weigh up the costs involved in a possible Le Mans 24 Hours entry using the technology, says motorsport boss Bruno Famin.

Alpine Alpenglow Hy4

Alpine stopped short of making a full commitment to the hydrogen ruleset that will be employed at the World Endurance Championship's showpiece event from 2027 following the global reveal of its Alpenglow Hy4 - powered by a hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine - at Spa earlier this month.

However, Famin acknowledged that what Alpine has dubbed its 'rolling lab' would serve an important purpose not only in adding to its competency in hydrogen, but also in helping to understand the 'economic feasibility' of racing with it.

"Hydrogen in Le Mans is a very great opportunity and we are happy with that, of course," he told selected media including Autosport.

"We have not decided yet if we will go, but that’s all the purpose of our Alpenglow concept, to learn more about hydrogen technologies, the ICE, but it’s also the filling, storage and so on.

"We want to know more; we want to improve our skills and our aero and we want also to know more about the costs.

"The more we know about the technology, we want to have an idea of where we go in terms of costs as well.

"To present a project to the board, you need to have a quite clear idea of what you can achieve for how much and it’s doing this project, it’s also knowing more about feasibility, technical feasibility and economical feasibility."

The Alpenglow reveal followed Toyota's launch of a hydrogen prototype concept at Le Mans last year, as momentum behind hydrogen continues to build.

GR H2 Racing Concept

GR H2 Racing Concept

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Innovation manager for Le Mans organiser the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, Bernard Niclot, told Autosport that Alpine's public display of its interest in hydrogen "gives some momentum and gives some legitimacy" to its long-held conviction of hydrogen's potential.

"More and more we see that H2 especially in endurance is the right way to go," said Niclot.

"I will joke, but we don’t force them to do these developments and they do it; it means that we are on the right way I think, it’s the best proof this."

ACO President Pierre Fillon has predicted that multiple manufacturers will be engaged by 2029.

Asked if a hydrogen combustion car could win Le Mans as soon as 2027, Famin replied that it would depend on what the regulations stipulate. These remain a work in progress.

Plans to demonstrate the Hy4, which is currently fitted with a turbocharged 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder engine, at Spa were thwarted by an electronic failure that meant it was unable to start.

Alpine says the car has done 700km in testing, and a new V6 engine is under development with a stated target of being introduced before the end of the year.

French constructor ORECA has collaborated with Alpine on its hydrogen combustion project for the past three years, and technical director Remi Taffin told Autosport that this cooperation will continue following the completion of a factory move to larger premises at Paul Ricard.

Alpine Alpenglow Hy4

Alpine Alpenglow Hy4

Photo by: Alpine

While clear that racing with hydrogen at Le Mans is at the forefront of ORECA's plans, Taffin says a partnership with a large automotive manufacturer will be desirable.

"The whole purpose of ORECA, developing this technology, is we want to be there [on the grid at Le Mans]," he said. "[Alpenglow] is a perfect example of what we are able to do when we get embedded with a manufacturer programme.

"It’s fair to say that it’s huge investments [involved], so that’s really efficient when we can work this way. Whatever it will take, we will be there."

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