HySE-X1 Retracing the Tracks of
the 2024 Dakar Rally

Taking on the World’s Toughest Motorsport
Event to Accelerate Hydrogen Engine
Small Mobility Technology

In October of 2023, "HySE" (Hydrogen Small mobility & Engine technology), a research association, of which Kawasaki is a member, announced its participation in the Dakar Rally, a long-established race that was set to be held in January 2024. The hydrogen engine powered vehicle, "HySE-X1," was designed and built at a rapid pace to be ready to contest the new "Mission 1000" category, which was established to encourage the development of next-generation powertrains. In the event itself, the HySE-X1 overcame a long and tough challenge to complete its mission of successfully arrived at the finish gate of the Dakar Rally.

AboutWhat is the HySE-X1?


HySE was established in May of 2023 by Kawasaki Motors, Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corporation, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., with Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corporation as special members. These member companies worked together to develop the HySE-X1, which is a hydrogen-powered car developed through joint research. It features a chassis produced by partner company Overdrive Racing, well-known in the cross-country rally world . The HySE-X1 is equipped with a Ninja H2 series’ supercharged engine that has been modified to use hydrogen as its fuel source. The machine is equipped with three hydrogen tanks and a hydrogen fuel supply system, and was developed to collect data under harsh environmental conditions.

Race ReportPushing the Limits

  • 1. Pre-Test – Ceremonial Start

    Development of HySE-X1 had been underway since August of 2023, and the first driving test was conducted a few months later in November, but machine issues cut the test short with little distance actually driven.
    There was not much time left until the rally in early January, so the HySE manufacturers had to come together as one to find the root of the machine’s issues, after which they worked hard to produce parts to address them. At a test held in Saudi Arabia, where the rally would take place, the team were able to make further progress toward improving the car’s reliability.
    Invited to be the HySE-X1’s driver was Jamie Campbell, who has experience racing and developing Side x Sides in the United States. Alongside him to fulfill the role of co-driver and navigator was Bruno Jacomy, who has a wealth of experience in the Dakar Rally and other cross-country rally events. The two formed an ideal pair for competing and collecting data on the vehicle's performance.
    The Dakar Rally kicked off on January 5, 2024, and in it the HySE-X1 successfully completed the prologue stage on the first day, after which it and the team took the stage for the ceremonial start. Now officially underway, the curtain was lifted on a new challenge for hydrogen mobility.

  • 2. First Half: Stage 1 to Stage 6 (January 6-12)

    The race began in earnest on Day 2 of the rally, with Stage 1 awaiting the drivers and teams.
    The Mission 1000 class in which the HySE-X1 competed is open to all sustainable vehicles, like EVs and bio-fuel hybrid vehicles. While the main objective was development and not pure competition, to motivate the participants, points are awarded based on the percentage of completion of each stage and the difference to a baseline time set for each.
    The HySE-X1 was able to complete each stage—from Stage 1 to Stage 4—despite suffering severe fuel consumption issues when traversing soft surfaces including the sand dunes that abound in the Saudi Arabian desert. In doing so however, it managed to best its previous record for continuous distance driven.
    After Stage 5, a liaison stage for the Mission 1000 class, consisting of travelling between locations, the teams got ready for Stage 6: the final stage of the first half of the rally. With mostly sand dunes to traverse, progress proved difficult and cost more fuel than expected, leading the team to decide on taking a shortcut. However, the HySE-X1 got stuck in the sand soon after.

  • 3. Rest Day (January 13)

    There is a rest day specifically built into the schedule, and it is an important day. It allows the drivers and co-drivers to rest their bodies and for the teams and mechanics to maintain and repair their vehicles.
    The HySE-X1 was finally recovered from the dunes of Stage 6 late at night and arrived at the bivouac (a campsite where rally participants gather) in the morning. From that point, it was disassembled, serviced, and repaired to pristine condition over the course of a full day. While that was going on, the team reviewed the driving plan for the remaining stages based on the driving data gathered in the first half of the rally.
    Also, a mobile hydrogen station accompanied the Mission 1000 teams to provide on-site hydrogen replenishment.

  • 4. Second Half: Stage 7 to Stage 12 (January 14-19)

    For the remaining stages, all the members of the HySE team agreed not to play it safe but to push as hard as possible. So, the HySE-X1 continued its aggressive charge into the second half of the rally.
    In Stage 7, the longest stage of the event, the team worked hard to preserve fuel, but eventually ran out in the final section due to a combination of the soft sandy road surface and route errors.
    Stage 8 that followed was a slightly shorter course with a hard surface. There, Jamie and Bruno drove hard to take first place from among the Mission 1000 class four-wheelers, which also earned the team bonus points.
    Almost the entire course of Stage 9 was sandy, so fuel consumption was worse than expected and the team struggled again as they had in Stage 7.
    As Stages 10-12 were shorter in distance, the HySE-X1 was able to up the pace and fly through each stage. When not facing issues with the rough course terrain, great efforts were made to collect various data for future development, such as asking the drivers to drive in a way to put heavy loads on the vehicle. Furthermore, in the final stage (stage 12), almost the entire section was driven with the accelerator at full throttle on the way to finish gate. With the final stage done, the 2024 Dakar Rally was finally complete.

GoalOn to the Next Stage

After driving the final stage, the HySE-X1 and its team members took to the stage for the ceremonial finish that traditionally marks the end of the event. Revving the HySE-X1’s hydrogen engine loud for all to hear, it was the sound of a successful event finally coming to an end. Overall, participating in the event was a success as the team fully achieved the objectives set out for the HySE-X1 at the start, which were to identify potential issues with hydrogen-powered small mobility in its early stages and to establish a baseline for hydrogen engine technology.

InterviewRider’s Voice

  • Driver

    Jamie Campbell

    “I just want to thank the crew and all the guys who have been involved in this project, all the team members and supporting staff. Today was an awesome day. In the final stage we got to go almost full gas and we got our best time of the rally. I also want to thank my co-driver, Bruno Jacomy. He taught me a lot over 12 days of racing. I could not have done this without him. I hope the whole HySE team are happy with the data we collected here.”

  • Co-driver

    Bruno Jacomy

    “I want to thank the whole HySE team and Overdrive because they did a great job. Jamie’s driving was very important in achieving our project’s goal. We are very happy to be here and going to the stage in the ceremonial finish to take this new technology and this new car to this moment. It was amazing to navigate in this car of the future. It was an amazing experience, and I want to thank everyone involved who made it possible.”

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