Team of Prague-based students heading to Las Vegas to compete in Horizon Hydrogen Grand Prix

We’ve heard of electric vehicles, but how about hydrogen powered cars? A group of five students from the Prague British International School are taking their design to Las Vegas to compete in a grand prix race with cars from over 20 countries. The vehicle took five months for the team to construct and will race over six hours at the tournament. I spoke with one of the students from the project, 17-year-old Jacek Chmiel about the process of designing the car.

For our listeners and myself included who may not know what a hydrogen powered-cell car is, can you explain this to us?

Illustrative photo: Toshihiro Gamo,  Flickr,  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Of course! It’s a fuel-cell electric vehicle – that’s a bit of a mouthful, so it’s much easier to call it a hydrogen car. The hydrogen is passed through a fuel cell to generate electricity. That is because of the chemical properties of hydrogen, you can pass it through a special membrane to generate electricity, and that is used to power a battery that powers a motor. The battery is there because the motor while accelerating draws a lot of power, and to give the car a lot more agility, it goes through a battery, and that’s how the hydrogen charging mechanism works.”

What was the process of building the car like, were there any obstacles you and the team faced and how did you overcome them?

“There were plenty of obstacles. It all started when our school was approached by the Clean Planet Foundation, they introduced us to the race organizers, and the organizers told us about how the race works and what building the car requires. It was a daunting task to start from nothing, but we got a car at the end. Through our schools facilities we were able to get the tools we needed, so we were able to build the car. One of the main challenges was the weight of the car. Weight distribution of the car is very important. Having too much weight on the front of the car means it will be unstable, too much weight on the back means it will be difficult to steer. So it was really hard for us to get the weight balance just right, but I’m quite sure that we’ve got that nailed down for Las Vegas.”

As you mentioned, the team is heading to Las Vegas to compete with cars from over 20 countries. Do you think there is anything unique about your car, and what are you most looking forward to about the tournament?

Las Vegas | Photo: tookapic,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

“It is our first year of competing in this discipline, so I’m very excited about going to the United States, it’s my first time going and it’s the same for many of my teammates. But we’re also excited to see all the different designs the other teams have come up with, so next year when we participate again, our future team knows these ideas and can get inspired by the designs of the other teams who have been doing this competition since 2018.”

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