Audi believes it could build hydrogen LMP1 racer for Le Mans 24 Hours

Audi believes it has the technology to build a hydrogen-powered car to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours

Audi believes it could build hydrogen LMP1 racer for Le Mans 24 Hours

The German manufacturer's head of road car technical development, Stefan Knirsch, has revealed that an LMP1 car powered by hydrogen fuel-cell technology "could be possible".

"If we wanted to demonstrate our capabilities that way we could do it," he told Autocar.

His comments follow the unveiling of the hydrogen-electric Audi h-tron quattro SUV concept car at the Detroit motor show in January and the announcement in June that rules to allow fuel-cell technology at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship are under discussion.

Audi's race operation is not developing hydrogen technology at this stage, however.

"At the moment Audi Sport is not working on a project, but that doesn't mean that we won't look into it in the future," Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich told Autosport.

Asked if Audi was supportive of attempts to allow hydrogen-powered LMP1 cars, he said: "It has to be discussed, but introducing hydrogen alongside diesel and petrol will not be easy."

A switch by Audi from diesel to hydrogen would have to mirror developments in its road car range.

Knirsch said it was important that hydrogen has "a production future" before any race programme could begin.

Audi is the Volkswagen Group brand chosen to lead development of hydrogen-powered vehicles, but it has yet to introduce a car with the technology to the market.

Le Mans organiser the Automobile Club de l'Ouest and the FIA, which jointly formulate the P1 regulations, have set up a working group to look into hydrogen power and its incorporation in the rule book.

The ACO is aiming to announce next June a timeline for the introduction of hydrogen.

It is unlikely to be before 2021 or '22 when a new rules cycle is likely to come into force.

The ACO stated that there were manufacturers interested in using hydrogen.

BMW is known to have evaluated running fuel-cell technology, but it is understood that the project is on the backburner.

The Swiss GreenGT organisation was awarded the former 'Garage 56' entry for Le Mans 2013 with its hydrogen H2 prototype.

The car was withdrawn before the race, but the project has continued and the latest version of the H2 was demonstrated during Le Mans week this year.

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