Taking the first steps towards making motorsport a truly environmentally friendly activity, the 2008 Formula Zero Championship kicked off in Rotterdam, Netherlands, over the weekend. Six teams affiliated with universities from around the world, including University of California at Los Angeles and Lawrence Technical University in Southfield, Michigan, competed in this inaugural student competition, contested on a street circuit using fuel-cell-powered go-karts. In the end, Greenchoice Forze, an entry prepared by a group from the local Technical University of Delft, emerged victorious.
All of the Formula Zero karts being used for this four-event 2008 season are powered by a common Hydrogenics 8.5 kW fuel cell and drive the rear wheels via a pair of Graviton electric motors that produce just over 10 horsepower. The karts also are fitted with Boostcaps, compact ultra-capacitors that store excess energy produced by the hydrogen-fueled main cell and can release up to 50 kW (45 hp) of it in a six-second burst. That extra kick allows the 628-lb Formula Zero karts to reach speeds of nearly 70 mph. Like today's hybrids and fuel-cell cars, these quick-release storage devices are recharged on the fly by a regenerative braking system.
The Formula Zero concept was created in 2003 by the Dutch organization Formula Zero B.V. as a way to promote the use of emissions-free hydrogen technology in street cars as well as in motorsport. The organizers see today's package as a springboard to a far faster and more exciting future that will include upcoming events in the U.S. Their 2011 plan anticipates even more powerful and sophisticated strain of Formula Zero cars competing on street circuits set up in large city centers. By 2015, the effort will be scaled up to run purpose-built open-wheel racers similar to current Formula 3 machines at formal race venues as part of a true world championship.