Dakar 2024: H-7 ECOVERGY, the pioneer team to compete in the Dakar with hydrogen and recycled vegetable oil

Dakar 2024: H-7 ECOVERGY, the pioneer team to compete in the Dakar with hydrogen and recycled vegetable oil

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  • Jordi Juvanteny and José Luis Criado lead an innovative project that will feature a hybrid hydrogen and HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil) fuel system developed by the specialist company EVARM.
  • The improvements implemented in the Spanish team's MAN 6x6 truck have led to a reduction of up to 90% in fossil fuel consumption.
  • Xavi Ribas, responsible for the development of the entire technical section, will share the cab with the two Dakar veterans for the first time.
  • "We completely believe in this technology and it's our way of giving back to the race everything it has given us over the past 30 years," says Juvanteny.

The KH-7 ECOVERGY Team returns to the Dakar Rally with the goal and determination to lead the way into the future of automotive. After becoming the first participants to complete the event with hydrogen as fuel last January, Jordi Juvanteny and José Luis Criado will return to the toughest event in the world with their inseparable MAN 6x6 truck modified by EVARM. Alongside them will be Xavi Ribas, responsible for the development of the innovative hybrid fuel system Hydrogen / HVO (renewable diesel from hydrotreated vegetable oil), who will experience firsthand this January what it's like to compete from the cockpit.

Juvanteny and Criado have spent half a life venturing into the deserts of half the world, from the early years in Africa, to these last years in Saudi Arabia and after passing through South America. Both have accumulated no less than 63 participations: 31 in the case of the Catalan driver and 32 in the case of the co-driver from Jaén. This renewed adventure is for them a new impulse in their long career and they hope to do their bit for a more sustainable tomorrow.

The team has spent these days the administrative and technical checks in Barcelona, which has dressed up and has returned to host the Dakar Rally for the first time since 2005. The MAN 6x6 has embarked at the port of the Catalan capital to set course for Arabia, where its members will retrieve it from the port of Yanbu on January 1.

The development of the mixed hydrogen / HVO system (from renewable sources, such as recycled cooking oil or organic waste) by EVARM during the last year will enable the Spanish trio to reduce the usual CO2 emissions of a truck of these characteristics by about 90%. The leap forward is notorious, after having managed to complete the Dakar 2023 with a system that emitted between 40 and 50% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere thanks to the use of hydrogen.

This time they will compete in a new category, the so-called Mission 1000, where they will share the adventure with motorcycles, SxS and cars with other innovative systems in terms of sustainability and emissions. This division is a unique test bed in the world to reinforce the Dakar Rally organizers' commitment to the future and will run parallel to the rest of the competitors. The goal is that by 2030 the main vehicles in the event will use alternative energy sources, and the KH-7 ECOVERGY Team is demonstrating that it is possible in its role as a pioneer of the initiative.

"Two years ago, we set ourselves a challenge: the use of alternative fuels. In 2022 we used LPG as the truck's fuel. Last year we took a new step using hydrogen. Hydrogen has a big advantage over other fuels: emissions are reduced to water vapor. Although fuel cell technology (a 'cold' combustion of hydrogen that produces electricity) is more widely used in the automotive industry, it can also be used to power traditional thermal engines directly. We have opted for the latter technology, which is already being tested by several manufacturers," explains pilot Jordi Juvanteny.

The truck has a 6-cylinder, 800 hp turbodiesel engine, modified to use a hydrogen/HVO mixture as fuel. The 2023 experience has resulted in several evolutions that will allow a richer hydrogen mixture, which will further reduce HVO consumption. The truck is equipped with two high-pressure hydrogen tanks at the rear, in addition to the HVO (renewable fuel) tank.

Xavi Ribas has been the man in charge of these engine modifications. Industrial technical engineer and director of EVARM, a pioneering company in the conversion of professional vehicle engines to use alternative fuels, he is excited to share his Dakar debut (after being with the team at the bivouac in 2023) with two legends like Juvanteny and Criado.

"The transformation of the engine involves the incorporation and adaptation of electronic, hydraulic and management systems to use hydrogen safely and without losing performance. After last year's experience, we have an updated version of the electronics (ALX) to improve injection and use less liquid fuel. This is my first Dakar as a participant, but last year I was already assisting the team and I am very excited about this challenge," he said.

For his part, José Luis Criado, the Spanish competitor with the most participations in the event - which in the 2024 edition will be its 33rd - emphasizes the great challenge they managed to overcome in 2023 - where they had to start each day on the special stages behind the last competitor - and how important the initiative and project they are carrying out is for the future of the world of motor racing.

"The Dakar 2023 was like climbing Everest barefoot, but we made it, after overcoming obstacles and vicissitudes. The truck worked like a charm, as we expected, it was a super satisfying experience and we proved that hydrogen technology was feasible. It is curious that the longest-lived people in the Dakar, not the oldest, are the pioneers in alternative energies. This says a lot about us and our involvement both in the race and in safeguarding the environment and the planet. I think everyone should take note and start taking steps because the world is dying and if we want to continue doing this kind of events, we must promote alternative energies. We are very excited and this makes us rejuvenated because we are implementing something very new, and that freshness rubs off on you," he acknowledges.

The Dakar 2024 will start on January 5 with a prologue to decide the starting order for the first stage and will conclude on the 19th. Twelve stages in thirteen days in which the KH-7 ECOVERGY Team will face the harshness of the Saudi desert and the new stage format that will be premiered in this edition: the dreaded "48-hour time trial", where participants will have to complete 580 kilometers timed in two days without the help of their assistants and stopping to rest at dusk on the first day in the middle of the desert.


Automatic translation of the original Spanish version
Source:   KH-7 ECOVERGY Team

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