RAC Cars News


Aston Martin Rapide Breaking New Ground At The Nurburgring

By raccars Published

The name 'Aston Martin' doesn't tend to go hand in hand with phrases like 'eco-car' or 'fuel economy,' but that's all about to change...

Next month's Nurburgring 24 Hours competition has a new and unusual entrant: the Aston Martin Hybrid Hydrogen Rapide S V12, a hydrogen powered racer that will be the first such vehicle taking part in any international competition.

The Rapide S is a traditional hybrid in the sense that the powertrain runs completely on gasoline, completely on hydrogen, or can combine both. Hydrogen is a green option in that it releases no carbon emissions, but the addition of hydrogen canisters to the car's weight, means it is unlikely to reach its full performance potential in the race.

A 6.0 litre V12 engine returning 558bhp gets the Rapide from 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 190mph via traditional combustion methods, but performance through hydrogen alone is untested as yet. In this race, Aston Martin is aiming for the unique car to complete the first lap of the race on hydrogen alone to make history and to prove its status as an innovator in automotive technology.

The company is most likely using the race as a PR exercise rather than a genuine competition, but seems keen to tout hydrogen as the fuel of the future. The Rapide S Hybrid Hydrogen has been created as part of the brand's centenary year celebrations, in collaboration with Alset Global, experts in hydrogen technology.

The hydrogen system used in the Rapide S is made up of fuel rails and storage tanks, managed via an ECU. This power management system optimises power, efficiency and acceleration, by determining the appropriate mix of power sources. For the endurance race next month, fuel will be provided by four hydrogen canisters, able to carry 3.5kg of the green fuel under 350bar of pressure. The storage tanks will be made of extremely secure carbon fibre, two next to the driver and two in the boot. The DMSB, Germany's motorsport governing body, has approved the safety of the system.

The Rapide four-door luxury saloon was released in 2006 and the racier Rapide S will be available from dealers as a conventional sports car this month, but if the hybrid version makes a respectable showing at the Nurburgring, it could lead the way for a whole new generation of hybrid race cars.

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