Hyperion teases its XP-1 hydrogen-powered supercar
Next month will see the launch of what looks to be a radically new and interesting vehicle from California-based company Hyperion Motors. The XP-1 aims to be the first to deliver supercar-level performance using a hydrogen fuel cell.
Hydrogen is all the rage at the moment; it's being spoken of as a potential clean energy source for the home, it's looking like a slam dunk in the growing electric aviation market, showing potential in shipping and looking to be the focus of a lot of energy exports in the coming decades.
It has not really taken off in the automotive industry. While Toyota and Hyundai/Kia are keeping things ticking along somewhat, zero-emissions driving has been comprehensively dominated by battery-electric vehicles so far. It makes sense; you can charge them at home on off-peak rates for a fraction of the price of a tank full of gas, and the vast majority of people very rarely drive far enough that the slow charging of lithium batteries becomes a problem. And while hydrogen offers super-quick fuel filling, there's just not that many stations where you can buy it.
The few fuel cell cars on the market, such as the Mirai and Nexo, are conceived as practical family runabouts. Indeed, the most performance-focused fuel cell vehicle we've seen thus far is the Forze VII, a Le Mans-style racer built by Delft University students whose fuel cell powertrain is only capable of a fairly flaccid 100 kW (134 hp) of continuous power.
Thus, the idea of a hydrogen-powered street sports car claiming to offer supercar-level performance would represent an impressive leap in technology. We won't see the full details for another month yet, but here's the substantive part of the press release:
"The XP-1 features a high-performance, zero-emissions hydrogen-electric powertrain combined with technology directly derived from some of the world’s leading aeronautical, engineering firms, and space agencies. When combined, these technologies allow the XP-1 to outperform modern sports cars while boasting unprecedented range, refuel time, endurance, and recyclability; especially when compared to today’s battery-electric vehicles."
The mention of space agencies raises the possibility that Hyperion is working on a liquid hydrogen powertrain as opposed to the simpler gaseous hydrogen used by most fuel cell EVs. A liquid hydrogen system would allow far greater energy density in the storage system, offering a substantially longer range, but would come with its own downsides: additional weight in a cooling system, additional energy losses in compression and re-gasification, and the fact that liquid hydrogen is even harder to get hold of than gaseous H2.
So we'll be watching with interest when the full details come out in August. Apparently Hyperion has been about since 2011, and is split into Hyperion Energy, Hyperion Motors and Hyperion Aerospace divisions. We're spitballing here, but this supercar could end up being an excellent technology demonstrator for a future liquid hydrogen aviation or eVTOL powertrain, and that would indeed be big news.
Source: Hyperion Motors