TopDutch talents on the road to hydrogen racing team
Since 2017, generations of students from across the TopDutch region have been pushing themselves and the boundaries of sustainable mobility, by building solar-powered racing cars and racing them in competitions across the world. Following the success of Top Dutch Solar Racing, two former team members, Alje Zwijghuizen and Calvin Beijering, are launching a Top Dutch Hydrogen Racing student team. It’s a natural move, think the founders. ‘Now is the perfect time to establish a hydrogen racing team in the Hydrogen Capital of Europe!’
The emerging 'Top Dutch Hydrogen Racing' team will be made up of fresh talent from education institutes from across the TopDutch region. Students with a research background from the University of Groningen, professional education from the Hanze University of Applied Sciences and hands-on expertise from the Noorderpoort, Alfa College and ROC Friese Poort vocational colleges will together make a multidisciplinary team tasked with engineering, building and racing a hydrogen car, and managing the business-side of such a challenge.
Their goal is to compete with some of the world’s best and brightest STEM students during the Shell Eco-marathon; a non-traditional race in which international teams travel a set distance with their self-built hydrogen car and have to consume as little hydrogen as possible.
Teams taking part in the Shell Hydrogen Eco-marathon must design and build a vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. This fuel cell converts hydrogen into electricity to power the vehicle. The goal is to consume as little hydrogen as possible over a fixed distance of 16.8 km. This result is then converted into kilometres per cubic metre of hydrogen. The team with the most efficient hydrogen car wins the competition.
From solar to hydrogen
In 2019, the Top Dutch Solar Racing team made its debut at the World Solar Car Championship in Australia, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC). At the time, the "solar team of the North" finished 4th in the overall standings and also received the "Excellence in Engineering" award. The succeeding generation competed in the Solar Challenge Morocco in 2021, where they again achieved 4th place overall.
Following the success of the solar car team, two former members are now also aiming their sights on hydrogen. They say the reason is obvious: the TopDutch region is leading the new hydrogen economy. The Northern Netherlands was named the first ‘Hydrogen Valley’ in 2019, and is widely considered the Hydrogen Capital of Europe.
"We are at the beginning of a new direction for the Northern Netherlands,” says Zwijghuizen. “Where once natural gas used to be the primary energy source, today the region is working on sustainable solutions. Now is the perfect time to establish a hydrogen racing team in the Hydrogen Capital of Europe”.
We see the student teams as catalysts for regional development. Government institutions, companies and educational institutions all come together and work collectively on major social problems.Alje Zwijghuizen
The Top Dutch Hydrogen Racing team will have a similar structure to that of the solar team. It will consist of 20-25 students from different disciplines, ranging from communication to engineering. It’s a powerful opportunity for ambitious young talent, explains Beijering. "Students join the project on intrinsic motivation, and will develop themselves at a fast pace on both a professional and personal level."
The benefits of the program go further than just the student’s personal development, however. "Setting up a hydrogen team is just the beginning of our plans," says Zwijghuizen. "We really see the student teams as catalysts for regional development. Government institutions, companies and educational institutions all come together and work collectively on major social problems. We should make full use of this cross-pollination of knowledge and resources."
The Shell Eco-marathon is organized annually in various locations worldwide. In 2022, 37 teams from 14 countries descended on the TopDutch region to compete on the iconic TT Circuit Assen. The TopDutch team will compete in the ‘urban concept’ class of the competition, which requires teams to consider city driving. The cars are closer to passenger cars in appearance, and has to be designed and built with human needs such as driver comfort and luggage space in mind, and to more road-worthy specifications including four wheels and a windscreen wiper.
The upcoming hydrogen team is setting its sights on the Shell Eco-marathon in 2025. “The goal is to build a hydrogen car with an efficiency value of 5,000 km per kg of hydrogen,” explains Beijering. “Just as with the solar car team, this team too will take on technical and organisational challenges and pioneer new technologies."
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