Dakar 2023: KH-7 Epsilon Team Will Be the First Truck to Use Hydrogen in Competition at the Dakar Rally

By December 5, 2022 5   min read  (970 words)

December 5, 2022 |

Fuel Cells Works, Dakar 2023: KH-7 Epsilon Team Will Be the First Truck to Use Hydrogen in Competition at the Dakar Rally

The mechanics of the team’s MAN 6×6 will combine diesel fuel with hydrogen thanks to an innovative system developed with the specialist company EVARM.

The truck will have a 420-liter H2 tank that will be refueled stage by stage by means of a mobile hydrogen generator.

Jordi Juvanteny, team driver: “The Dakar has given us a lot and it’s time to give it back. Our team intends to do great and innovative things, and the commitment to hydrogen will also be the way to do our bit.

Between Juvanteny from Barcelona, José Luis Criado from Jaén and Jordi Ballbé from Andorra will add 65 participations, a record. Together they will try to beat the 20th place of the last edition, in which they became the first Spanish team in the truck classification.

The KH-7 Epsilon Team truck will be the first vehicle to compete partially powered by hydrogen in the Dakar, a proposal developed together with the specialist company EVARM. The MAN 6×6 that Jordi Juvanteny (driver), José Luís Criado (co-driver) and Jordi Ballbé (navigator) will crew between December 31 and January 15, was presented in the port of Barcelona shortly before leaving for Marseille, where it will undergo technical checks today before embarking on its way to Saudi Arabia.

The members of the KH-7 Epsilon Team, pro Dakarians with 65 participations between them, face the 2023 edition by adding one more challenge to their backpack. Their determination to study the feasibility of competing in the world’s toughest race using non-polluting means has led them to bet on hydrogen, a step they have taken with the help of EVARM, a company specializing in the conversion of professional vehicle mechanics to alternative fuels. The team’s MAN 6×6, one of the heavyweights of the Dakar, with a tare weight of 11,500 kg, will be powered by an engine boosted to 800 hp. Its six in-line cylinders will burn a combination of diesel and hydrogen, the latter injected from two tanks holding a total of 420 liters, which will be refilled at the end of each stage using a mobile hydrogen generator.

The toughest race in the world will thus serve as the perfect testing ground for this ambitious challenge, which will provide new and decisive lessons in terms of systems development and fuel logistics for future use in standard trucks. Indeed, if the 2023 experience is successfully completed, the KH-7 Epsilon Team intends to make hydrogen the main fuel for its vehicle for the 2024 edition.

The KH-7 Epsilon Team initiative is born out of innovation and concern for sustainability. Jordi Juvanteny, pilot, commented: “We are in the second stage of this project, which we started last year with the use of eco-fuels. In 2023 we have replaced LPG with hydrogen, which is completely clean and leaves no footprint in the atmosphere. This is our way of giving back to the Dakar part of what it has given us. In addition, the planet is calling for change and we cannot wait for an exclusively institutional response. We must all get moving, starting now. Our team intends to do great and innovative things, and thus do our bit for the planet, which is asking us to do so.

In the 2022 edition, Juvanteny, Ballbé and Fina Román (taking over from Criado, who left at the last minute due to Covid-19) have already taken the first step by converting their engine to use HVO – synthetic diesel made from recycled oil – combined with LPG, which significantly reduced emissions. In 2023 they want to take another step forward with the use of hydrogen as a completely clean energy source.

Xavier Ribas, industrial technical engineer and director of EVARM comments: “The transformation of an engine requires the incorporation of electronic, hydraulic and management systems to allow the combustion of diesel with H2 safely and without losing performance. In the race, we will save between 40 and 50 percent of diesel fuel”.

José Luís Criado, co-driver of the KH-7 Epsilon Team, which in 2023 will face its 32nd Dakar participation, says: “Being pioneers gives me a special satisfaction. Life is all about challenges and illusions, and we believe that our experience can contribute to innovation in the freight transport sector, which has a great impact on emissions and cannot benefit as clearly from new energies such as electric power”. Jordi Ballbé, who will accompany the team as navigator for the second time, adds: “We will not only be the only truck, but the only vehicle in the Dakar that relies on hydrogen as fuel. Our goal is to optimize its use to save as much diesel as possible. Being a test bed while dealing with the difficulties of the race is a major challenge.”

In his 31st appearance on the Dakar, Jordi Juvanteny underlines the importance of having a new challenge every year: “Despite having done so many editions, we still have challenges. Each edition is a new motivation, because the race changes, the route is secret and is not known until 15 minutes before the start of each stage. So to finish, in itself, is a major milestone, and of course also to do it in the best possible position. This race is our life”, concludes the team driver, who will be celebrating his 27th edition together with José Luís Criado, with whom he has achieved 16 wins in the 6×6 Trophy and four titles in the Production category. In the last edition, but without the participation of Criado, the team finished with Fina Román and Jordi Ballbé in 20th position and as the first Spanish team in the classification, something that the crew – now with Criado instead of Román – will try to overcome.

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The 2023 Dakar will start on December 31 and finish on January 15, after 14 tough desert stages, a prologue and a rest day.


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