Green Eyed Monster – Aston’s Hybrid Rapide S
Picture the scene: the Eifel mountains of western Germany, a wild land of volcanic peaks and crater-lakes. Shrouded within these dark forests looms the Nürburgring, one of the most dangerous race tracks in the world. Known to petrol heads as The Green Hell, this 25-kilometre, blind-cornered endurance test of man and machine will become proving ground for a hydrogen-powered rite of passage, when Aston Martin’s Hybrid Rapide S throws itself into the jaws of the ADAC 24-hour challenge.
Not just one, but two records will be broken, before it even crosses the start line. The Hybrid Rapide S will be the first hydrogen-powered car to compete in an international event, and the first zero CO2 emissions sports car to complete a race-pace lap at the Nürburgring 24-hour. Over 150 vehicles will be driving at full throttle for one whole day and night around the longest racetrack in the world.
The car was conceived out of a partnership between Aston Martin’s engineers and Austrian firm Alset Global. Under its bonnet is the familiar 6.0-litre V12 engine, only this V12 has been boosted by twin turbos and can run on pure gasoline, pure gaseous hydrogen, or a mixture of both. The result is a dynamic propulsion system that gives sports car performance, but with a carbon footprint more akin to that of a supermini.
Instead of a fuel cell, the hydrogen is stored in four ultra-high strength carbon fibre tanks holding a total of 3.5kg of hydrogen stored at a pressure of 350bar – two tanks next to the driver and two in the boot. There’s been no confirmation from Aston on power, but the ‘regular’ Rapide S four-door that the Hybrid is based on is capable of 190 mph and sprints from 0 to 62 mph in only 4.9 seconds, so you know what to expect.
With Aston’s dual-fuel ability the drivers can adapt their strategy during the race, dextrously switching between maximum petrol performance or more frugal hydrogen running. And strategy is exactly what they will need, when they come face to face with the fearsome Nürburgring. Blind bends that have no run-off. Jumps and menacing drops. Sun on one half of the course, rain on the other. The track can bite, and it often does.
But Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez knows all of this. Entry in the 41st Nurburgring 24 Hours will be the eighth successive year the firm has taken part, and he wants to underline the reliability and safety of Aston’s hydrogen technology. It’s scary, but that’s why we keep watching.