HySE-X1: Japan’s Hydrogen-Powered Revolution for Dakar 2024

Japanese hydrogen-powered off-road vehicle

In the world of motorsports, Dakar has always been a grueling test of both man and machine. And when we talk about pushing the boundaries of innovation, the upcoming Dakar 2024 is set to be a spectacle unlike any other. At the heart of this change is the HySE-X1, a product of Japan's top minds in hydrogen engines and off-roading, including industry giants like Honda, Toyota, and Yamaha.

Imagine a vehicle powered not by traditional gasoline, but by the promise of hydrogen. The HySE-X1 is exactly that—a side-by-side vehicle set to debut at the Dakar Rally, and its mission is as audacious as the race itself: to validate the potential of small hydrogen engine development in one of the world's most challenging terrains.

The design speaks volumes. The initial renderings reveal a vehicle that's distinctly aggressive, its bodywork splashed with vibrant livery, hiding its wide-open front end behind a slender central grille. But it's not just about looks. Underneath that rugged exterior lies a 1.0-liter four-stroke inline-four hydrogen motorcycle engine. And with a supercharger attached, power production promises to be efficient. To combat the scorching desert heat, the X1 will rely on liquid cooling.

Its foundation is built by Belgium's Overdrive Racing, an off-road motorsport builder. They've designed a chassis tailored to accommodate the hydrogen fuel tank and supply system. It's no small task, especially when you consider the demands of the Dakar Rally. But Overdrive is up for the challenge, also taking up the mantle of maintenance and hydrogen refueling during the race.

In terms of dimensions, the X1 is set to weigh in at about 3,307 lb with measurements of 139 x 81.5 x 67 inches. It's a compact beast, but one that's poised to make a significant impact.

HySE, the “Hydrogen Small mobility and Engine technology” research association based in Tokyo, is the brains behind this endeavor. They've recently gained approval from Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and are diving deep into the potential of small hydrogen engines, exploring its application in motorcycles, boats, compact four-wheelers, and even drones.

The Dakar 2024 will also feature the Mission 1000 Challenge, an initiative aimed at inviting automakers to showcase experimental carbon-neutral powertrain technologies. It's a shorter race than the main event but retains the brutal conditions Dakar is known for. Here, there's no winner or loser; it's all about pushing the boundaries of what's possible.

Kenji Komatsu, the association chairman of HySE and an executive officer at Yamaha's Technical Research & Development Center, captures the spirit perfectly. The aim isn't just to race, but to communicate their research findings in a manner that resonates. By participating, they hope to uncover potential issues and refine their technology, accelerating the development of hydrogen mobility.

Before its grand debut at Dakar, the HySE-X1 will be showcased at the Japan Mobility Show. Interestingly, Yamaha, a member of the HySE association, will also display its version of a hydrogen-engined side-by-side vehicle, ensuring the event will be a hub of innovation.

In a world hungry for sustainable solutions, the HySE-X1 stands as a testament to human ingenuity and the potential of hydrogen. As we approach the Dakar 2024, all eyes will be on this groundbreaking vehicle. And as someone who's always been passionate about embracing the new and the bold, I can't help but be excited about the future it represents.


  1. Hydrogen-Powered: Utilizes a sustainable energy source, making it environmentally friendly and pointing towards the future of motorsports.
  2. Innovative Collaboration: Developed by Japan's top minds in hydrogen engines and off-roading, including heavyweights like Honda, Toyota, and Yamaha, ensuring top-tier expertise.
  3. Efficient Power Production: The inclusion of a supercharger promises enhanced power production, optimizing performance.
  4. Adapted Design: Created by renowned Belgium off-road motorsport builder, Overdrive Racing, the chassis is tailored to house the hydrogen fuel tank and system.
  5. Liquid Cooling System: Ensures the engine remains functional in extreme conditions, like the desert heat during the Dakar Rally.
  6. Research-Backed: Spearheaded by the HySE research association, which focuses on the potential of small hydrogen engines, guaranteeing dedicated research and development.
  7. Real-World Testing: Participation in the Dakar 2024 offers a valuable opportunity to test and refine the vehicle in challenging conditions, providing insights that lab tests might not offer.


  1. Unproven Technology: As a pioneer in its category, the HySE-X1's performance and reliability in real-world conditions remain to be seen.
  2. Limited Infrastructure: Hydrogen refueling stations are not as widespread as gasoline stations, which might pose logistical challenges.
  3. Weight: At 3,307 lb, its weight might impact maneuverability and speed, especially in off-road terrains.
  4. Novelty Challenges: As one of the first of its kind, unforeseen technical issues might arise during its use.
  5. Competitive Edge: Being a part of the Mission 1000 Challenge, where there are no declared winners or losers, its competitive advantage in a traditional race setting is still unknown.
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