How AFC Energy is powering Extreme E’s E-SUVs in remote locations

KANGERLUSSUAQ, GREENLAND - AUGUST 27: AFC Energy container in the paddock during the Arctic X-Prix at Kangerlussuaq on August 27, 2021 in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. (Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images)
© Sam Bloxham

From its thrilling debut in the heat of the Saudi Arabian desert, and high drama on the beaches of Senegal, to Greenland’s stunning arctic landscape, electric racing series Extreme E has already experienced a host of diverse and challenging conditions from which to deliver its pioneering spectacle.  

As the sport for purpose championship heads towards Sardinia for the penultimate round of 2021 – the Island X Prix – it continues to work with AFC Energy, that has designed and built a hydrogen fuel cell system highlighting the vast potential for today's newest clean power technologies to displace polluting diesel generators that are responsible for a large proportion of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

The system was engineered in collaboration with Extreme E’s utilities team in the latter part of 2020 to provide the power for all of the series’ ODYSSEY-21 electric SUVs and was specially designed to take on the world's harshest environmental conditions. It comprises a zero-emission fuel cell charging system powered by hydrogen; a battery energy storage unit; and chargers for the cars.

Additionally, the unit has a solar-powered electrolyser and metal hydride Hydrogen storage system that produces and stores green Hydrogen at each race – showcasing a genuinely sustainable clean energy system.

Transported to each round via Extreme E’s floating centrepiece, the St. Helena, the system has been deployed at each of Extreme E’s first three rounds; the intense heat of AlUla, Saudi Arabia, for the Desert X Prix (3-4 April), Lac Rose, Senegal, for the Ocean X Prix (29-30 May), followed by the cold of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, for the Arctic X Prix (28-29 August).

The system has been able to charge all race vehicles across each race weekend, showing its dependability in harsh conditions following thousands of miles of sea travel. This has also provided AFC Energy with valuable operating data supporting wider partner discussions and future system engineering iterations. The system also successfully integrated with Enel X’s first deployment of 415V chargers in Greenland, reflecting its flexibility. 

With the recent publication of the UK’s Hydrogen Strategy, reflecting growing Government support for the application of hydrogen to prevent the internationally-agreed threshold of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels of global heating being breached, AFC Energy’s successful global deployment with Extreme E has shown that viable zero-emission alternatives to the diesel generator already exist for industry use ahead of the milestone COP26 climate conference in November.

Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Extreme E said: “Extreme E’s collaboration with AFC Energy means that we are the first event organiser to have ever used hydrogen fuel cell power generators for charging on site at race events. It’s one thing to use battery powered cars but how do you charge them in a completely sustainable way – thanks to AFC Energy, we are doing just that.

“The technology has already proved to be game changer right from our first race event in Saudi Arabia in April. As our first location, this was incredibly challenging for everyone involved – not only were we positioned completely remotely within the desert of AlUla, no roads, no infrastructure at all – but it was very hot and there was so much dust which would affect any sensitive machinery.

“Since then, Extreme E has raced in Senegal and Greenland – you couldn’t get more diverse and remote than those two places – from sand, heat and humidity on a beach in Lac Rose, to racing next to an arctic ice cap in Kangerlussuaq. AFC Energy has managed these situations and kept our cars fully powered. We are setting the standard for clean fuel provision in any situation – there’s no excuses left for industry to not be ‘clean’ now, we know it can be done, we’ve proved it.”

Adam Bond, Chief Executive Officer at AFC Energy, said: “This first of its kind deployment across the world of our Hydrogen power generator in such high pressure, high-profile environments is an enormous tribute to all of our staff and partner organisations involved and shows what can be done today in moving the world to zero-emission technologies.

“Governments and industries alike are realising that without immediate investment in genuinely sustainable power technologies, there is little to no chance of either carbon dioxide emissions targets being met or in limiting the change to global temperatures. Our technology is ready to play a key role in addressing climate change, the most pressing issue facing the world today.”

With Rosberg X Racing’s Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson leading the championship just ahead of X44’s Cristina Gutierrez and Sebastien Loeb, Extreme E now heads to Sardinia for the fourth event of its inaugural season - the Island X Prix – taking place 23-24 October.

The championship’s freight and infrastructure, including AFC Energy’s hydrogen fuel cell, is currently on route to Sardinia aboard the St. Helena and a small team of AFC Energy engineers will perform upgrade works on the system in the run up to the race, with the same team staying on the Italian island to operate the system throughout the race weekend.