Forze Hydrogen Racing
Shell has become the main sponsor of Forze, the hydrogen racing team of the Delft University of Technology, otherwise known as TU Delft. This team of eggheads is building the fastest racing car ever to run on hydrogen. The partnership, that began at the start of 2021, marks the next step in the development of hydrogen racing. Team Manager Mark Jan Uijl: "The social relevance of this technology makes this a unique project."
“This team of eggheads is building the fastest racing car ever to run on hydrogen.”
Forze Chief Engineer Jasper van Dongen’s smiling eyes reveal an ambitious deadline that was recently achieved in the project. The day’s task was to complete the carbon monocoque, which is essentially a construction that becomes the driver’s cockpit and keeps them safe, as well as being the mount for the other components. He had to keep working until five in the morning. “It was not easy, certainly not. But it shouldn’t be. Without a challenge, nobody would participate”, says Van Dongen. “And yes, we made it. On time." The monocoque is indeed meticulously manufactured; all holes are in exactly the right place to be used for building up the car in a later stage.
Forze is a racing team that consists of 25 full-time and 35 part-time students affiliated with the TU Delft and together, they design and develop a racing car that runs on hydrogen. They don’t compete in student races, no they join official GT-races on world renowned tracks like Zandvoort and Assen. Their ultimate dream is to participate in Le Mans, clearly distinguishing Forze from other student racing teams.
The Forze IX: capable of 300 km per hour
Forze has already been around for 14 years now and the team’s composition changes every year. Together they are building ever better, faster and more advanced hydrogen racing cars. The current team is working on their ninth car - Forze IX. The expectation is this will be their fastest so far, with a maximum speed of 300 km per hour. Since September, the team have been working with, among others, Partnership Manager Jikke de Mol van Otterloo, Chief Engineer Van Dongen and Team Manager Uijl. The Forze IX has to be ready by this October. After that, the development reigns will be handed over to the next generation of students, who will further optimize the car and get it ready to race.
"They don’t compete in student races, no they join official GT-races on world renowned tracks like Zandvoort and Assen. Their ultimate dream is to participate in Le Mans."
Team Manager Uijl: “Our team brings the digital designs of all the parts to the workshop in Delft for testing and assembly.” The pandemic has created exceptional circumstances. It adds an extra challenge to tinkering together on the sustainable racing car. In student dorms all over the country, team members are busy with modelling, soldering, planning, and skyping. It is relatively quiet in the workshop. There is only a maximum number of team members that may be present at the same time.
Toil at the office
In the adjoining office, which has typical student decor with its cozy furnishings and an abundance of things on the desks, one person is seated alone, struggling through a series of complicated graphs and models. A deep frown is visible above his glasses and face mask. If you are going to strike up a conversation with TU Delft students about automotive technology, then you better be ready. They delve right into the nitty gritty and will tell you every minute detail of the Forze IX’s unique specs.
Extra power after every turn
For example, about the clever way in which they recover kinetic energy on the straights. Van Dongen: “That energy is stored in a buffer when we steer into a corner and is then converted back into speed when we drive out of that corner. That is a huge advantage compared to regular fuelled cars. We developed this technology from the ground up and it is one of the largest projects we have worked on so far.”
Also new to the Forze IX is the four-wheel drive and the technology that ensures that all four wheels can be driven independently of each other. So, in a corner the outer wheels turn just a little faster than the inner ones and as a result, the forces that the wheels exert on the road are distributed much better. Uijl: “This is really unique, the best of the best.”
Not one, but two fuel cells
Furthermore, the Forze IX gets two so-called balance of plants, and therefore two fuel cells, instead of one. These are the power units of the car, the systems that convert the hydrogen into electricity that drives the car. And this car is getting two because it offers engineering benefits. The team puts all its knowledge into developing the first balance of plant which is extensively tested and developed. This optimized power source will then "only" be duplicated. "Moreover," Van Dongen mentions another advantage of the dual system, "If one system blocks during a race, we can still make it to the pit lane on the other."
Faster than petrol racing cars
The new version should be a significant improvement on its predecessor, the Forze VIII. “We are putting double the power in it,” says Team Manager Uijl ambitiously. “We want to compete in the GT class, beat the Ferrari’s and the Lamborghini’s. Ultimately, we would also like to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the future. That would be the icing on the cake. The place to showcase what hydrogen can do.” The previous version didn’t perform too badly either. For the first time in history - it was August 17, 2019 at the Assen track - the hydrogen racing car outperformed its petrol competitors in an official race.
A partner with the same ambition
The drive these students have needs a matching sponsor; a sponsor that is willing to go along with the ambitions of the racing team. And on top of that, a sponsor that endorses the potential of hydrogen as a sustainable energy carrier. So, being Partnership Manager, De Mol van Otterloo decided to contact Shell: “We had a good conversation. It felt like a natural fit because Shell is taking more and more steps in the field of hydrogen. The energy giant quickly indicated that it wanted to become the main sponsor.” Van Dongen adds: “The company has a clear vision of where the energy system needs to go. The role of a party like Shell is indispensable to hydrogen mobility.”
“If it works here, it works everywhere”
All three team members see the potential of hydrogen. “I expect that in the future we will hear more about hydrogen in the mobility sector,” said Uijl. “Hydrogen is a way to store renewable energy. Refuelling is relatively easy and fast. And the car has a long range.” The efforts of racing team Forze are necessary to take hydrogen technology in the mobility sector a step further. “Racing is the way to show whether a technology is good. It demands the maximum from the technology”, the Team Manager explains. "If it works here, it works everywhere."
Mark Jan Uijl (23) - Team Manager
Mark Jan studies Technology, Policy and Management at TU Delft and is the Team Manager and chairman of the board of Forze. He supervises everything on a whole and makes sure the different components of the team are connected. He also looks at the further development of the team and the technology. "It is a wonderful responsibility as a student to manage the entire team."
Jikke de Mol van Otterloo (22) - Partnership Manager
Jikke is one of Forze’s Partnership Managers. She takes care of the contacts and contracts with all partners of Forze. Therefore, also with Shell. Jikke is 22 years old and studies Life Science Technology. "The combination of technology and social work, working in a team, makes it interesting for me."
Jasper van Dongen (23) - Chief Engineer
Jasper studies Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering and is Chief Engineer of Forze. He oversees the quality and safety of the car, which is no simple feat given the maximum speed of 300 kilometres per hour. “I have a passion for technology. I can put that to use in this difficult and innovative project.”
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