London, August 26 : The world witnessed its first international fuel-cell-powered go-kart race, known as the "Formula Zero", in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on August 23.
According to a report in New Scientist, six teams participated in the event, which is aiming to be a zero-emissions alternative to today's high-performance "Formula 1" car races.
The six teams used go-karts powered by fuel cells, which electrochemically combine hydrogen with atmospheric oxygen to produce electrical power and an exhaust of pure water, producing zero carbon-dioxide emissions.
But instead of the fuel cells charging a battery, as called for in designs for fuel-cell-powered road cars, the cells charged supercapacitors.
These devices, which store energy in the electric field between two conducting plates, discharge more quickly than batteries, giving the karts more kick.
The race had two components - an endurance event and a sprint.
For the endurance event, karts had to complete six laps of a 533-metre-long track in the fastest time possible.
For the sprint, karts were timed as they completed one lap after a flying start, where they started accelerating before the beginning of the lap.
A team called EuplatecH2 from Zaragoza, Spain, won the sprint, finishing one lap in just over 36 seconds, sustaining an average speed of 53 kilometres per hour.
The endurance event proved trickier. Two teams were unable to compete because they couldn't get their karts working in time for the race, and the remaining teams made unscheduled stops on the track.
In the end, a team called Greenchoice Forze from the Netherlands' Delft University of Technology took first place in the endurance event.
By 2015, Formula Zero plans to race full-size cars from professional teams.
While this first race used a single fuel cell design - purchased from the Canadian firm Hydrogenics, competing teams will ultimately be able to choose their own fuel cells.
According to Godert van Hardenbroek, the founder of Formula Zero, "Formula Zero will be a competition between fuel cell technologies."