Belgium recently took the lead among a set of top university teams vying for “zeroth place” in the Formula Zero European Championship of hydrogen fuel cell cars. This carbon-free Grand Prix injects ingenuity and sustainability back into the races, starring get-up-and-go “karts” with a little H2O in their tailpipes.

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Hydrogen fuel cells power the racers’ electric engines, which can go 0 to 60 (100 km/h) in 5 seconds and up to 75 mph (120 km/h). Of course, winning isn’t everything … the Dutch team Greenchoice Forze claims 70% renewable materials in their car’s bodywork (such as natural flax fibers and bio-based resin) and offsets its carbon footprint with a green energy provider.

“There is no better way to educate the engineers of tomorrow than to give them an opportunty to get hands-on experience with these technologies and to prove their capbilities in a competition,” says Eiso Vaandrager, one of the original organizers and enthusiasts of zero-emissions racing. “Students interested in starting their team for the next season should contact Formula Zero now.”

The Dutch founders of Formula Zero — a play on the more famous Formula One — hope their super clean (and quiet) standards eventually become the racing norm. According to The Independent (UK), organizers of Formula One and the FIA in charge of motor racing worldwide already have begun moving toward more environmental policies. (Check out the FIA’s “greener motoring” campaign.)

The end-of-summer hydro-cell series features four teams competing on different circuits in each of their host countries: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. With three down and one to go, the Belgian team has won two of those rounds, including the most recent on their home turf. The final race takes place this Thursday, Sept. 3 at the Motorland Aragon in Alcañiz, Spain.

+ Formula Zero

Photos by Richard van’t Hof