Das Boot
Racecar Engineering|December 2021
A curious Twitter exchange fired up a unique, hydrogen-powered, cross-country project that will contest the Baja 1000 in November 2022
ANDREW COTTON

The rivalry is unlikely to become a reality, but Elon Musk's tweet that his Cybertruck was better than a hydrogen fuel cell option sparked Jim Glickenhaus to propose a challenge.'You have said that hydrogen technology is "mind-bogglingly stupid," wrote Glickenhaus in response to Musk.' You've also mentioned that the Baja 1000 would be a great test for your Cybertruck. We say bring it!

It is a classic, old school racing challenge, laid down by one who could afford to back it up to another. Even though Musk went quiet, Glickenhaus pushed ahead with its programme under a new company, Glickenhaus SCG Zero.

This is a project designed to look at carbon zero technologies, including electric, but also other alternatives. It is run by Jesse Glickenhaus, Jim's son, whose life, he says, has been affected by the plight of the population of Bikini Atoll. That's the series of islands used by the Americans to test nuclear weapons after the second world war, and whose inhbitants' attempt to return has now been thwarted by the threat of global warming.

As such, Jesse, who wrote to the first General Assembly Resolution for the UN to say that climate change was an issue of international peace and security, decided the future of mobility had to be more friendly to the environment. He has since been given free reign within Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus (SCG) to pursue options.

Initial target

The Glickenhaus Boot, which has already competed in the Baja 1000 with some success, will form the base car for the programme, with heavy modification for the hydrogen fuel cell that will provide the power needed to compete. It is not expected that the car will be able to win the event, as there are a number of obstacles that need to be overcome, but the target for year one is to finish reliably, and to set a benchmark that will put the technology onto the radar of governments around the world.

Creating a hydrogen fuel cell car is not easy, and it may seem unlikely that a cross country machine with excessive weight being driven through the desert is the perfect vehicle to demonstrate green credentials, but this is where the Glickenhaus team started.

'In November, we were racing the Baja for the second year, and a person down there а asked me what it would take to run a zero emissions Baja 1000, recalls Glickenhaus. 'That was the question that set it all off. I did research, started with the laws of physics and chemistry, and what's currently known about them, and those are my limits.

'I researched using medical waste that's radioactive in the US, and tiny nuclear reactors, which are used in satellites, spaceships and in the US military on aircraft carriers. I looked at batteries. I looked at capacitors. I looked at burning hydrogen, which is not quite zero emissions because it creates NOx, and it creates CO2'.

The answer I came up with, using existing technology, is hydrogen fuel cells!

Tweet tweet

That was the tail end of 2020, but then came the tweet from Musk.

'First, he tweeted that the new size Cybertruck suspension would be great for the Baja 1000, and the second thing he tweeted was that fuel cells are stupid, remembers Glickenhaus. Actually, he tweeted that these were 'fool cells' and it sparked a rivalry.

'My dad, being my dad, tweeted back and said, "Great, you bring the Cybertruck. We'll bring a fuel cell Boot, and we'll race you in the Baja in 2022."

There were a few issues to overcome before this could even be considered a possibility, but both Jim and Jesse Glickenhaus had the bit between their teeth.

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