A hydrogen racing car will be taking to the circuit at Silverstone soon, as undergraduate engineers race their cars at the home of the British Grand Prix in the tenth Formula Student competition.

Competing alongside approximately 100 petrol-powered racers, the event will feature three alternatively fueled racing cars including one hybrid, one with a fuel cell and one that runs on hydrogen.

The vehicles will take part in some events, such as the sprint race where only one car is on track, though safety concerns prevent them from lining up on the grid and their times wont be judged against the conventional cars.

Jon Hilton, chief judge and managing partner of Flybrid Systems, explains, $quot;For technologies that nobody has run before everything presents a new risk.$quot;

The hydrogen racing machine, developed at the University of Hertfordshire, uses an adapted internal combustion engine powered by hydrogen and demonstrates that while this may not be a viable long-term technology, converting a standard engine to run on hydrogen is a possibility. The hydrogen will derive from manure and it is hoped that the power output will match that of a petrol engine.

Hilton hinted at the intrigue and sense of hope surrounding the alternative fuel racer, as he commented, $quot;We're keen to see how quick they go. We would like to see these technologies coming back to compete in a full competition.$quot;

The car built by the Racing Green team from Imperial College London runs on a combination of a hydrogen fuel cell and a battery, capable of going from 0-60mph in just 4 seconds. Oxford Brookes University, meanwhile, will be unveiling a hybrid car with a 250cc single cylinder engine and an electric motor, recharging its capacitors by becoming a generator when the car brakes - similar to technology used in hybrid road vehicles.

The event, organised by the UK Institute of Mechanical Engineers, includes prizes for speed, fuel efficiency and endurance. Single-seater cars will also be judged on the design and cost aspects.