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Prototype of the H₂-ICE Race Engine proves Itself on Testbed

14 December 2023

The motorsport department of AVL is celebrating the next milestone on the road to a zero-emission future of motorsport. The prototype of a hydrogen-powered, two-liter turbo engine – built by AVL RACETECH – was put through its paces on the testbed and confirmed the top values calculated previously in simulations: with a specific power density around 205 hp per liter (150 kW per liter), the engine achieves a highly competitive level in the world of motorsport. This is made possible by, among other things, an intelligent PFI water injection to moderate combustion.

Up until now, hydrogen combustion engines (H₂-ICE) have been somewhat renowned for low performance figures and lean-burn. AVL RACETECH is banishing that “preconception”. Over the past few months, the motorsport department at AVL has developed an innovative H₂ racing engine in cooperation with the Hungarian HUMDA Lab. For AVL RACETECH it is the first race engine under its own name. On one of the engine testbeds modified for the use of hydrogen at the AVL headquarters in Graz, a prototype of the hydrogen-powered, two-liter turbo engine achieved a top figure of 410 hp (301.7 kW) with an engine speed of 6,500 rpm. The engine generates 500 Nm of torque at 3000 – 4000 rpm, that corresponds with a mean pressure (BMEP) of 32 bar.

The features include an intelligent PFI water injection, which injects additional water into the engine’s intake air, in order to avoid unwanted premature ignition, which can damage the engine. The air-fuel ratio (lambda) is 1 (stoichiometric combustion), meaning it is no longer in the lean range. The air demand, which is lower than with lean combustion, is covered by using a wastegate turbocharger designed specifically for that purpose.

AVL had performed detailed simulations in advance, which displayed an excellent correlation with the results recorded on the testbed. The next milestone in the development is to test the new engine concept in a car on the racetrack.

Project leader Paul Kapus, Manager Development Spark Ignited Engines: “At the end of 2022, we announced for the first time that we would be working on a two-liter, hydrogen-powered racing engine with stoichiometric combustion and PFI water injection. Our goals were 500 Nm of torque and an output of up to 300 kW (specific output 150 kW/l). We are proud to have been able to validate those figures on the testbed.”

Ellen Lohr, Director Motorsport AVL: “The results achieved by our H₂ racing engine confirm that we are able to deliver an extremely competitive package with this technology. The goal of AVL RACETECH is to lead motorsport into a sustainable future. With the development of the first racing engine developed under our own name – a high-performance H₂-ICE – we have taken another step closer to achieving this vision.”

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